In going to a far off place, one yields a personalized tale from the immediate objects, events, and surroundings. Even when traveling as a group, each individual has their own point of view, often conveyed in photos and videos online. After all, no point of view is totally alike given the varying competencies, personal experiences, and attitudes of individuals. Such differences take center stage in the Indonesian art collective Ruang Mes 56’s photobook, Faraway So Close.
Showcasing works from some of Indonesia’s emerging and established photographers and visual artists, the project’s backdrop is the “relatively far and unfamiliar” city of Semarang, known for its historical sites, rich culture, and traditional cuisine. The result is a cabinet of curiosities, magnifying the city’s every nook and cranny.
Dipping into the pages of Faraway So Close, the reader is taken to a scenic wormhole that is Semarang, viewed through the eyes of different photographers. One gets a pristine view of the city’s culture, art installations, cityscape, and “green spaces,” among other things. Collectively, the photobook brandishes the spirited outlook of Indonesia’s photography community, which resonates with its readers.
Included in the photobook are reputable names in Indonesia’s photography and art scenes. Anang Saptoto, featuring a compelling take on the Kota Lama, pictures a world far forgotten, amalgamated with contemporary art. Akiq A.W. utilizes a search engine to create a visual survey on how the world sees Semarang on the internet. Edwin Roseno brings to light the intricacies of local cultural centers by superimposing their illustrations over their commercial predecessors. Meanwhile, Yudha Kusuma Putra interacts with the local community and presents an interesting view on what life is in the storied city.
If Faraway So Close is any indication, anyone who loves and appreciates photography can expect more remarkable projects from the collective. Ruang Mes 56 has gone far and wide to inspire locals to develop their skills in photography and the arts, conducting workshops and exhibitions, and the photobook is a testament to the immense aptitude of Indonesian photography.