Whether the literary figures who crowded the streets of Ubud during the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival like it or not, visual language is becoming a more popular mode of communication of ideation, ideas, and even ideals, than ever before. Photography, ever more sophisticated and accessible, is becoming ever more central to that language. The photograph has become an indelible part of our communal consciousness, the icons, the shared image -the conveyor of news, memories, and artistic expression.

Because of this the exhibition of 11 emerging Indonesian photographers in the middle of the UWRF buzz took on an extra significance.

Learning the visual language of photography, being fluent in it, takes time and receptivity. And the 11 photographers featured are no exception to this process.
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But what is exceptional is that they are all working sincerely at experimenting with it, at developing their fluency, at communicating their vision, passion, and experiences. Sure, there are plenty of influences of other older photographers evident in their work, perhaps even from the ‘senior’ Indonesian photographers who co-curated the show.

But those senior photographers in their turn were influenced by their predecessors and contemporaries. Meanwhile the language of photography becomes more sophisticated, more complex, more varied. Photography is becoming more and more of universal language as its practitioners gain more an more access to simply doing it.

In Indonesia, like in many other places, photography in all its varieties has developed in leaps and bounds in the last decade. It’s an astounding phenomenon. The digital age has just about broken down the last barriers to affordability and accessibility, yet there are also serious practitioners of such arcane photographic arts as ‘lomography’ and pin-hole photography.

I disagree strongly with one foreign blogger who felt that the show is all too imitative, going so far as to claim some of the work reflects an aimless rebellion and even a lack of courage. Actually it’s all very ‘explorative’. Exploring bodies of pre-existing work, exploring their own realms of experience. They look to the extents of the language they are learning to find ways to express what they have seen and been captured by, and they do so with plenty of courage.

A young girl, born and raised in a conservative Betawi family talks her way into birthing ward in an unfamiliar city on her first trip overseas to record one of the most harrowing moments of human life. A young Balinese photographer, ever alert, instinctively takes a parting shot of a forlorn, young Australian prisoner facing a possible death sentence in a strange land. A brash kid, barely a quarter century old, convinces an iconic Indonesian diva to drape herself in toilet paper for a portrait. Another explores, in an ever so-slightly-satirical mode, the metaphoric journey of a doll named Mimi on a typical south-east Asian junket. A Balinese prince leaves comfort behind on a 9 month odyssey exploring the dusty trails of Central Asia and the sub-continent to bring back images vibrant.

All of them have pushed their own youthful boundaries, all eleven are passionately committed to their work, and they are all working photographers. Looking at their work and seeing the quality and vision that is already there, I know that if they continue they will be the future image makers whose work will be indelibly etched into our communal consciousness.

Imagemakers of the Future is on at the Alila Ubud until the 30th of November 2009.
open from 9:00 am to 9:00pm