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500 Days of Summer

Reality As Our Mirror

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Living in this city, Jakarta, it is all about contrast; high rises and slums co-exist side by side in the midst of the city and a lot of times this creates drama and intensity that tell the story of this city, but only if you listen. Oscar Motuloh, in collaboration with the Indonesia Leica Community (idL) and Yayasan Cinta Anak Bangsa (YCAB Foundation) look over to the other side of all the glitter that Jakarta has to offer and come up with a photo essay book called the ‘Angel of Change: On the Flipside’. This book brings a great story of ‘Angel of Change’ – the women entrepreneurs in the photographs – as the main characters or ‘heroines’ of the story. Motuloh who is an esteemed photographer was involved in the curating and editing process of the photographs.

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Photograph by Win Soegodo

"Two years before the book was published, the discussion to create this photo essay book had already started. I knew that there would be a collaboration between idL and YCAB Foundation. At that time, people who were involved were brainstorming as to how to come up with a really good project. There were many pictures taken by people at idL and I started talking to them. I also spoke to Veronica Colondam (Founder / CEO of YCAB Foundation) and I thought, if the pictures could be compiled with an interesting background, it could be a really great story. Friends from YCAB Foundation and idL were really interested in this idea, so we went ahead with the photo essay book,” recalled Motuloh.

As a photographer, Motuloh’s works have been about ‘social reality’ and one of the messages that people can reflect upon is perhaps the story about underprivileged people. “Reality can become our mirror, the way we perceive and see things around us, and most importantly, everyone can appreciate it through photographs. Fine arts come from realities and the arts sometimes come from responding to social phenomenon. For me personally, it is good that we understand that visual art is one of the ways in which we can say things, even to people who are illiterate.”

As diversity is really apparent in Jakarta, Motuloh sees a uniformity in the midst of it. “The whole idea of the photo essay project was ‘dignity’; how dignity is for everyone. It doesn’t matter which social status you belong to, you always have the same dignity as everyone else. Everyone has the right to have dignity – through the struggle, we can stand on our own feet, we can send our children to school, and so on,” said Motuloh.

Motuloh continued, “The women and their families that we see in the ‘Angel of Change: on The Flipside’ are the same women who receive help from YCAB Foundation. I know about their stories through conversations we had with other photographers. Everyone who was involved in this project volunteered their time to come up with great works. We can use photography as a language, as a way to send the message of the vibe in that particular environment, where the women and their families live.”

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Photograph by Raul Renanda

Children as the symbol of the future, women empowerment, and human dignity despite of the social class we are in are the messages that Motuloh and his friends are trying to convey in their photographs. “I am happy when photography can be used as a language. I think the stories of these women are more interesting when they are done visually. The main message really is that everyone has the same right to their own dignity and as long as you are giving your best, you will reap the success,” said Motuloh.

Motuloh added, “I saw this as an interesting project and I chose to do it with photography because it can bring stronger meaning. The book came from the ‘spirit of sharing’ with others. Photographs are not always portraying an event. There are always the other sides of all these events that we capture with cameras. When we see a strong photograph, we ask ourselves ‘what is beyond the picture?’ So this is also maybe something to share to people out there that photojournalism is not just about news, it can also be a story, or something that can move people.”

Working with non-profit organization such as YCAB Foundation, Motuloh finds that it is also about creating the perfect balance in his life. Other than his professional works, he is also one of the founders of the Antara Gallery for Photojournalism (Galeri Foto Jurnalistik Antara) in Jakarta, a non-profit organization that aims to popularize photojournalism to young people.

In the near future, Motuloh will be involved in Jakarta International Photo Summit at the National Gallery (Galeri Nasional), where he is going to talk about the sea, and the people who live around it. The event will be held in November, entitled ‘The City of Waves’.

Story by Penny Lane, 2014

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