WACANA Yogyakarta

Yogyakarta, 1-2 December 2018

In partnership with @kelaspagiyogya

Women on Street

Photo by Erik Prasetya (2018)
Text by Gevi Noviyanti, Rijal Putranto and Puri Kencana Putri

The photo is displayed with a situation during the day, where the photographer is in a public space. The atmosphere of the photo was taken in the middle of a fast food restaurant, there are five men aged 20 to 40 years in the photo. Four men aged 20 and 40 are looking at a photographic object from the February 2016 issue of the popular magazine “Popular”, showing a picture of a seductive woman, about 30 years old, wearing a red super mini dress. Three of the men are wearing casual polo clothes while one 40-year-old man wears a batik with a lanyard on his neck.

The similarity of the four men is laughing at the object image. Coupled with a large poster of Ronaldo, famous soccer player from Portugal who also looked at the camera with a mischievous look and smile. But one man whose position is close to the camera angle seems to show a face that does not care. In the photo there is also one woman working in fast food restaurant with her back to the lens. She seemed to be working on preparing the food.

The fast food restaurant where the photo was taken also has a writing menu that can be associated with “cheap women”. Short sentences such as “super large” in which a picture of a woman is close to a picture of a chicken’s thigh and breast including a fragment of a sentence next to the Ronaldo poster “good, warm” seems to strengthen the atmosphere of masculinity.

Strong stereotypes of masculinity depicted of women in the magazine become an object or a means of visual recreation among other visual objects. Women are also often used as objects of sexual desire to satisfy content in adult magazines. Sexist content in public spaces seems very common to appear in the social settings of urban settings that seem very selfish and ignorant in living a social life. Not to justify, but misogynistic practices tend to be strong and alive in the social context of urban society. Permissiveness in sexualized content does not seem to matter. The fact is that content like this is a unifier of different classes or social statuses.

Sex and expression are no longer a private arena that is carried out in a room, bed or confined space. Sex and expression are not mere reproductive agendas – which can only be done by those who are legally valid from a conventional point of view, but with high levels of public consumption, sex and expression are now present as a means of recreation. Similar to the argument made by Jared Diamond in his book “Why is sex fun?” (1989) which emphasizes that the elements of sex and expression are precisely the means of pleasure from living things, including humans. Erik Prasetya here seeks to capture what is the joy of the urban and middle class society through visual cosmetics (pictures of women) and the pleasure and recreation banality of social structures that consume these visual aesthetics.

Erik Prasetya is a photographer whose works are always associated with urban and middle class people. This photo work is a series of Women on Street book which is the edition of Banal Aesthetics Part II issued in 2018. With his snapshot street photography technique, this moment successfully captures popular aesthetic objects that is consumed within Jakarta..

Industrialization of sexualized content is of course based on consent from the object of the image. However, this consent will create a far wider benefit in the scope of the industrialization of sexualized content itself. From here has the woman dressed in red deliver a message about “bodily authority” that can be enjoyed by a wide audience? And is it enough for this bodily authority to match the visually visible masculinity, prevalent in our everyday lives? Is it enough to match the values ​​and struggle of gender inequality itself? Questions that deserves to be discussed.

A reflective question arises when the subject in the photo is a group of women who look at men as objects in a magazine. Will it be an interesting moment to be captured? Is the objectivity of the male body in the public sphere something common and interesting to discuss? Like Jojo’s photo, our badminton athlete who was once the object of “fun” on social media? And if the photographer is a woman, will she be interested in the visual angle as taken by Erik Prasetya?

Her Take: (Re)Thinking Masculinty

Men Born from Blossoms from The Secret Garden of Lily LaPalma: Leonard Gloating with Chrysanthemums, Penang, Malaysia

Photo by Maggie Steber (2018)
Text by Aziziah Diah Aprilya

In her photographic work for the 2018 Her Take: (Re) Thinking Masculinity exhibition, Maggie features a black man with a moustache, thick eyebrows, and a beard surrounded by colorful flowers. The man’s face looks symmetrical, firm and on the surface of the water while the rest of his body is in the water. The face part in this photo is more focused than the flowers that are deliberately blurred. Besides flowers, another element that appears in the photo is a white foam which is located halfway down, just below the face. And the man’s gaze in the photo shows a hint of sadness.

The point of interest of this photo is the face of the subject which is almost in the center of the frame. The lighting used seems to have produced a high-contrast color between the subject and the nuances around it. The flowers and froth around the subject are blurred to create a dreamy and surrealistic impression.

For us, this photo illustrates the contrast between a subject that is tightly assumed to be a figure of masculinity with a strict expression on the face, a dense beard, juxtaposed with flowers more closely related with the femininity.

From the look in his eyes and the dark atmosphere shown, we feel there is sadness that the photographer is trying to portray. This assumption is contrary to the assumption of most people that the masculine male figure should not be sad. But aren’t men also human beings? And humans live with various emotions, and amongst them there is sadness.

Interesting when Maggie described the figure of a man whose body part is “drowned” as depicting the sadness. Then the blurred flowers represents repressed emotions because most people assume that men should not be sad or cry because it is feminine. This can also be seen from the black part above the eye line upwards, which seems to be trying to tell the thoughts of a man who might have difficulty describing his emotions because of the stigma / assumptions of people towards the figure of masculinity.

Maggie Steber, a female photographer who was born in Texas in 1949. Her interest in photography is seen from her career in this field. She has worked in 67 countries, and has served the longest in Haiti for 25 years. Maggie herself is actually interested in mystery, horror films, noirs, and surrealism. So this affects the style of Maggie in this photo that reveals that the element of mystery is also surrealist.

This photo was originally one of Maggie’s personal project series entitled “The Secret Garden of Lili LaPalma” in 2017, Maggie’s photography project that wanted to tell the depth and mystery of an artist’s soul.

But in 2018, the photography agency, VII, wanted to do a photography project with 6 female photographers who focuses on gender, power and representation with the title Her Take: (Re) Thinking Masculinity. The exhibition is motivated by the issue of the photojournalism industry which often displays sexual violence and gender biases that have occurred lately. The model from Maggie’s photo is Leonardo Pongo, a photographer who is concerned with Documentary Fashion from Congo.