Sat, 21 Feb 2004

Photographer vows to always come back

Sri Wahyuni, The Jakarta Post, Yogyakarta

It may not have occurred to Australian photographer Bill Morrow that his first trip to Yogyakarta, in 1981, would end up with his deep love of the city.

So profound that he cannot stay away or stop taking photos for his documentation and collecting various mementos.

"This is my 18th visit to Yogyakarta. Still, I'd love to come back here again and again," Morrow told The Jakarta Post earlier this week.

Compared to the previous trips, Morrow's visit to Yogyakarta this year is considered special. He came with a planned program of exhibiting some of his mementos and photos on Yogyakarta, especially the election-related ones.

The exhibition was held at Yogyakarta's French Cultural Center Gallery this week under the theme of Return of the Tourist Party.

The theme was picked because it was considered relevant now, especially because the country is bracing for the legislative election in April and the first-ever direct presidential election in July.

There are 32 black-and-white photos depicting campaigns and polling activities, including a picture of Sultan Hamengkubuwono X voting during the 1999 general election.

Morrow's exhibition is the second to be held in Yogyakarta. Earlier, in 1995, a similar photo exhibition was done at the Bentara Budaya Yogyakarta, but it was under a more general topic.

A graduate of the University of South Carolina in America, Morrow who is also a lawyer. He finished his photography education at the University of South Australia's school of arts.

Born in Adelaide, South Australia on March 23, 1952, Morrow has published a number of publications, mostly on legal issues, photography and visual arts. He also presented lectures on the same subjects at a number of universities and colleges in Australia.

All aspects of life in Yogyakarta interest him. He spent few weeks in the city in 1999 when he was in the process of completing his election project. Morrow also had the chance to see how Yogyakarta residents, like many others throughout the country held their election. He shared the opinion that the 1999 election was the most democratic one in the country's history.

However, to maintain his neutrality, he intentionally created his own party, a non-contesting one of course, that he then named the Tourist Party. So serious was he, that he also made several kinds of party souvenirs, just like real political parties mostly did, such as pins, badges, and key chains.

And he distributed the souvenirs to other tourists he met while he was taking photos on the streets.

What has also made this year's trip special for him was that he was also invited to speak on some seminars with local students, mostly about his photography -- which he considered as an opportunity to exchange knowledge and experience.

"I like to talk to people. That's why I always try my best to be at the gallery during the exhibition hours so that I will have a chance to talk to the visitors about almost anything," said Morrow, a widower with two children and a grandson.

"I plan to write a book on Yogyakarta one day. It will be written from an outsiders point of view," Morrow said.