The Salihara Community, Indonesia’s first multidisciplinary arts centre, in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut showcased a collection of photo essays of 12 young photographers from eight South-East Asian Countries. It focused on contemporary social issues.
Photographs have always served as archival records of life at a certain period. On the surface they’re a snap shot of contemporary life. Deeper, they reveal social phenomena of the time. The photography exhibition, titled “We Will Have Been Young” presented a series of photographs that captured issues affecting youth.
Held from 8-27 May, The exhibit was first shown at the OBSCURA Festival of Photography in Malaysia in 2017. In cooperation between OBSCURA, Goethe-Institut Malaysia and Ostkreuz Agentur der Fotografen, Berlin, it provided young photographers based in Southeast Asia to exhibit their work. Participants were asked to photograph social issues that most affected them.
Selections were made from submissions in 2016 and participants were offered the opportunity to take a masterclass in Penang, Malaysia under the guidance of Tobias Kruse and Jorg Bruggemann.
As part of the masterclass, all photographers had to work on an individual project during the year and generate ideas for a photo series to be published in a book titled “We Will Have Been Young”.
The series of photographs address social phenomena based on reality but at the same time they have to look beyond it, transcend it and create notions of other realities, opposing concepts and new worlds.
One example was the work of Alvin Lau from Malaysia who highlighted the phenomenon of online dating. The photographs invited one to take a look at how the use of dating apps has had an effect on contemporary relationships, or on the other hand, a look at how modern relationships exist.
Two Indonesians photographers exhibited work on a cultural phenomenon and on mental illness among youth. In “Vespa Warriors”, Muhammad Fadli showcased the increased interest in Vespa scooters among youth with many youngsters riding grossly modified versions of the vehicle.
Photographer Dwi Asrul Fajar’s work, on the other hand, focused on youth who suffer from bipolar disorder. Through his work, the Jakarta-based photographer hoped to address the stigma surrounding mental illness and change the way it is portrayed in the media, especially considering that those with mental illnesses are often heavily discriminated. Titled “A Stream Under The Table,” Dwi Asrul Fajar talked about a sense of coming back to oneself, and to understand the complicated mental state of people who have been diagnosed as schizophrenic, bipolar, depressed or suffering from borderline personality disorder.
Other interesting topics, such as the search for a sense of belonging among the LGBT community formed the basis of Singaporean photographer Lee Chang Ming, family constellation and identity by Dennese Victoria ( The Philippines), gender identity on school students by Watsamon Tri-yasakda (Thailand), cruel treatment and longing for a sense of being at home by Yu Yu Myint Than (Myanmar), club scene as a sign of rebellion by Linh Pham (Vietnam), psycho-social challenges by Amrita Chandradas (Singapore), social house and urbanisation by Kanel Khiev (Cambodia), marginalisation of indigenous people by Elliott Koon (Malaysia) and nostalgia and serenity by Geric Cruz (The Philippines).
The exhibit is set to tour other countries in Southeast Asia, the Asia Pacific region and Germany.