The second edition of Surabaya Photo Festival takes place at Ciputra World from 11 to 17 May 2015. I will like to thank Mamuk Ismuntoro and Stevanus Lim for inviting me to speak during the occasion. Other speakers present at the festival include Erik Prasetya, Dwi Oblo, Jim Allen Abel, Shamow’el Rama Surya and Wimo Bayang, amongst others.
For my presentation on 13 May, I talked about my long-term documenting work on the Chinese communities in Southeast Asia. I also previewed my ongoing project, Small Town Stories: Chinese in the Small Towns and Rural Areas of Southeast Asia.
My photographic life has been intimately tied to Surabaya. All my major projects have been previously exhibited in this city of East Java, Indonesia. My first photo workshops also germinated there, having organised two of them in 2008 and 2011 for the French Cultural and Language Centre.
As such, I am more than happy to return to this strangely familiar-yet-decidedly different city for this edition of the photo festival. Surabaya has often been stereotyped as a city of work, a metropolis with little interest in culture and arts. Despite the perceived lack of support, the festival team has managed to put together two editions of the event. I think they deserve immense credit for what they have accomplished.
To situate a festival in a massive mall is probably not the most conducive way to encourage dialogue due to the constant distraction of window-shoppers and loud music. On the plus side though, it does help to bring photography to people who do not usually visit cultural and artistic venues. The diversity of photographic practices covered by the talks is a welcoming sign. Looking ahead, the festival probably needs to find its critical focus, which will significantly improve the quality of its shows and talks.
On a personal level, I am glad to catch up with old friends and hang out with newly made ones. To this end, I am grateful for the invitation.