Thu, 30 Jan 2003

Kemal accentuates humanity through the lens

Simon Howland, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Two exciting projects by a young Indonesian photo journalist paint a picture of a thriving industry capable of standing unaided on the world stage.

Kemal Jufri's work on the aftermath of the Bali bombings and work in progress on the children of Timor Lorosae are a testament to the skills of one of the nation's finest photographers and an indication of what Indonesian photo journalists have to offer.

On Oct. 12, 2002, a terrorist attack in Bali brought the attention of the world to the tourist island. One of the worst terrorist attacks in the history of Indonesia claimed almost 200 lives and shattered the island's image as a safe place to get away from the turmoil elsewhere in the world.

Jufri was there in Kuta to witness the devastation and on Tuesday night his photos were displayed at the Aksara bookstore in South Jakarta. The photos afforded viewers a unique perspective on the atrocity as Jufri worked magic with the day-to-day and mundane to paint a haunting picture of humanity and despair.

The exhibition coincided with the hundredth day since the bombings and was rather anticlimactically titled, "A Tribute to Bali: 100 days after."

The pictures were hung along the walls in the back section of the bookstore. The first image to confront you was the infamous shot looking down on Kuta from above which appeared on magazine and newspaper covers all around the world. Its power lay in its depiction of the extent of the devastation where as far as the eye can see the damage is obvious. Scorched earth and black husks that where once buildings get the viewer as close to the scene as possible without being there.

His pictures of Western tourists in various states of shock and disbelief add a sense of humanity, and a lone Balinese man in tears on his knees brings home the impact on the locals, people for whom the impact will last a lifetime.

He uses a setting as mundane as the foyer of McDonalds to show the impact on the livelihood of the local people and his clinical portraits of the bomb victims evokes a combination of disgust and pity in the viewer.

Kemal Jufri is one of Indonesia's most accomplished young photojournalists and, at 29 years of age, has been in the field for almost a decade.

He began his career in 1994 as an intern at Antara news agency before joining Agence France-Presse (AFP). He then moved to the now defunct Asiaweek until its closure in late 2001.

In 2000 he was the recipient of one of the world's most prestigious awards for photojournalism, The University of Missouris's Picture of the Year (POY). And the following year he was recognized as one of Indonesia's most exciting young journalists.

In March 2001 he formed Imaji Press, an Indonesian photography service, in conjunction with his partner, freelance journalist Dina Purita Antonio.

He currently works as a freelance photographer and does regular assignments for Time magazine, Newsweek, the New York Times and the Far Eastern Economic Review.

Kemal could not be present during the exhibition as he is currently on assignment for Time magazine in Papua. But his partner Dina was there to keep up appearances and informed me of a joint project she and Kemal are working on in East Timor.

The new endeavor, entitled Esperansa, or hope in Portuguese, depicts the lives of the children of Timor Lorosae from the time of the young nation gaining it's freedom to the official declaration of independence in May, 2002.

The project aims to point to the heart of the issues affecting the children of Timor Lorosae: regardless of what they've been through or what they may face in the future their spirits enable them to persevere and provide hope for their new nation.