By Ridzki Noviansyah and Tommy N. Armansyah
[Editor’s note: Ridzki Noviansyah and Tommy N. Armansyah are founding members of The Photobook Club-Jakarta in 2013. Its aim is to discuss issues relating to photobooks published in Indonesia and beyond.]
2016 was atrocious.
We saw too many deaths. Donald Trump won the US presidential election. Indonesians (especially Jakartans) continue to deliberate over Ahok and the forthcoming gubernatorial election.
On the other hand, we witnessed the Indonesian photobook scene thrive as never before. There were publications, book tours, bookseller tours, photobook exhibitions, workshops and public interventions. We saw new voices and established practitioners publishing their latest work. We now have independent photobook publishers in Indonesia–Kamboja Press and Binatang Press. Kamboja published the books of Vira Talisa and Tampan Destawan respectively while Binatang brought out Anton Ismael’s.
Now that the bar has been raised, 2017 will hopefully bring more interesting publications onto the table.
Here are the best Indonesian photobooks of 2016 that caught our eyes. The criteria for selection are:
- Published in Indonesia in 2016
- Featured photographs made by Indonesians
- The photobook should be able to captivate viewers to revisit the work.
- The photographs should be able to make the viewers feel as though they are in the scene portrayed.
- The publication should have physical qualities that support the above criteria.
In no particular order:
Some people will loathe the design, others will love it. The book is born under the collaboration of Rian Afriadi and artist-designer Natasha Gabriella Tontey. It feels like a story book with a dark twist at the end, which makes sense, since we’re looking at Rian’s imagining of another world under a different sun. The design and text fit the book well, though I wish they would choose another paper for the photographs.
This volume results from experimentation and collaboration, two things that we believe in as well. As a result, these books are quite tightly edited and highly produced. The Flock guys have also been pushing boundaries, creating bridges with other communities, producing zines, while maintaining their sense of humour–something that’s increasingly rare amongst photographers today.
What’s with Surakarta (Solo)? Every year, we find a few photobooks from that city, which always feature contrasty, black-and-white images, creating an impression that Solo only offers dark, bleak thoughts. After N is no different. However, it’s also refreshing to see how Greg envisions the world (the book is his edit) since his marriage. Again, we believe that good photographs deserve to be printed on the best paper.
Honorable mention: #WISTAU by Flock Project
Pokes fun at people who take things seriously: check.
Self deprecating humour: check.
Social commentary: check.
Designed in the spirit that only a zine can convey: check.