I celebrated my 39th birthday today. My birthday gave me cause to contemplate my current context. I spent thirty-eight and a half years in Canada. Now that I live in Jakarta, my understanding of the lottery I unwittingly won by being born in North America has become so much better developed.
Take this photo, for instance. It is a “river” nearby to where I live, and that’s a “motorcycle” on the second floor balcony of an apartment that is adjacent to this river. This photo bothers me, and reminds me that I’ve had a pretty lucky existence.
There are many things in the photo that should bother the viewer…I’m wondering what bothers you.
I’m loving the motorcycle. It gets me to roads and places I’ve not been to before. This is an alley I have been down, but I’ve never come down it from this direction. Good times.
One of our many examples of graffiti here in the Kemang area of South Jakarta.
I went for a ride on Saturday and found many more examples of what’s happening around here in street art. There’s some crap, some territorial scrawlings, but there’s also some really beautiful, really well-done art.
I’ll let you decide into which category this falls.
A little bit of both. This is on the corner where Kemang Raya, the main street in our neighborhood, breaks off into two one-way streets. The graffiti, as you’ve seen in the last few days, is in the wreck of a former building. Adjacent to the old building is an old hotel. It sticks out because it is one of the taller buildings in this part of Kemang.
I’m trying to think of something witty or poignant to say about this,but nothing’s coming to mind. All I can think about is that I didn’t sleep well last night and now I’m so tired that I’m lucky that breathing is a reflex.
This is another shot from Saturday morning’s bike ride around Kemang. I like how what used to be a building frames the art that’s growing up around the area. I will say this, though: there is little more difficult than trying to figure out which horizontal line in this photo should be straight. One of the rules of a good photo is that the horizon should be straight. The problem with this photo is that there are a couple too many horizons.
I still liked it enough to post it.
How about you?
I resolved to get to know my city a bit better. I bought a motorcycle in the early days of December, and, now that it’s finally licensed, I’ve been driving it around my neighborhood. I bought it so that I could get to and from work more easily, but it’s offered so much more than a commuter vehicle ever could.
Jakarta is an immeasurably large city. There are five areas, as far as I can tell, that actually make up the city of Jakarta: South (where I live), North, East, West, and Central. Then there are all the other towns, villages, cities that have been absorbed by the greater Jakarta area. On top of that, the council of people who plan out how the city develops seems to be non-existent. Streets start and stop, lead to suicidal corners and dead-ends, narrow to daredevil dimensions. If rhyme and reason play any part, they are a funeral dirge to the hopes of newcomers wishing to get to know their new city.
Add to all of that the “macet” (literally translated as “jammed” – referring to Jak’s horrible traffic), and buying a car was out of the question. So I bought a motorcycle. What’s great is that, in the three or four days of driving it around my neighborhood, I’ve already scouted a number of places I had no idea existed.
What you see above is an example of one of those places. I particularly love the juxtaposition of the mosque and the graffiti.
I’ve found some new-found freedom here in the Big Jak. I’ve been driving my motorcycle a lot this week, now that I finally have licence plates for it, and it’s given me some ability to get around and snap photos that I’ve not had the opportunity to take.
This girl, painted on a wall at a corner on a one-way section of Jalan Kemang Raya, watches me every time I go by her. Today, I got out and took her picture. I like her headband-ears.
Now that I’ve got mobility, I think it’s time to find some more street art.
We’re going to Bali tomorrow, and I’ve got a big, whanging headache. I’ll try to write something more poignant and witty tomorrow. We’ll see.
The Kemang area of South Jakarta (Jakarta Selatan) is home to many interesting inhabitants of varying importance. This is the home of a German diplomat. I don’t know who lives here, but there’s more security cameras on this residence than most around here, and a conspicuous absence of security guards.
Often, people around here will make jokes about how, if you wanted to, you could not get the attention of the police if you really needed them. Maybe this is why the expectations of Jakartans are not that high.
…in someone else’s shoes. In this case, the shoes belong to a man who scavenges for a living. I pass men, women, and children who scavenge to live every morning as I head to school. They work their way through the trash of Kemang residences, looking for things that will bring them income.
Walk a mile in this pair of shoes. I doubt I would make it through a day.
As soon as I aimed the camera at it, this cat was giving me the eye. I felt like he was thinking, “What are you lookin’ at?” He watched me take his photo and then stalked me down the alley-way afterwards. It was a bit weird.
By the way, cats in Jakarta are ubiquitous, and not treated very well. It’s sad, really. Oh, and most of them are missing some, most, or all of their tails. I haven’t figured out why this is, but they are all maimed in some way. I’m not a cat person, but I feel sadness when I see them.
Or is it “peek-a-Benz”?
The problem with doorways is that you may never know what’s on the other side until you go through them. These beautiful, carved wooden doors could hold a gigantic mansion with servants and drivers and nannies. These beautiful, carved wooden doors could hold an abandoned, run-down, shack with squatters. You’ll never know until you step through the door. Oh…you can guess at it, try to look over the wall, but at some point, in order to really understand, you need to go through the door. Or, you can settle with never knowing.
Possibilities are like that. You never know exactly what you get until you walk through the door.
It’s how I ended up in Jakarta, taking photos of beautiful, carved wooden doors. I stepped through.
I live in Jakarta. I live in South Jakarta. I live in the Kemang Area of South Jakarta. I live in an apartment in the Kemang area of South Jakarta. I live in a second-floor apartment in the Kemang area of South Jakarta.
Today’s lesson in specificity has been brought to you by…
It rained last night. Then, God turned on Photoshop and switched the world to the sepia filter. My wife called to me to come look outside. The whole world was bathed in a brown-orange-golden glow. It was like stepping out of my apartment into an aging photograph.
The only thing I adjusted was curves and levels, for better contrast.
For now, I’m posting another angle on the Vespas up my street. I will bring my camera with me tomorrow, and snap some new stuff. In the meantime, please accept these broken-down vehicles.
I was walking home two days ago and I noticed the Masjid on Kemang Jalan Barat. I snapped a photo. Here it is.
I must be really tired.
These Vespas are on the way to school. I’m in the market for a motorcycle right now, and if the rules for buying one get any more complex and the “ease” of getting one gets any less easy, I may make an offer on one of these. Maybe the one without the seat.
probably because, everywhere I go in Jakarta, there are so many security guards. Security is a micro-economy here in Jakarta. We have security at our apartment, as seen above, at our school, at the local grocery stores, in the malls, on the street directing traffic. They are ubiquitous. If I didn’t know better, security guards could be the national bird of Indonesia.
I love these guys, though. I’ve never met one who hasn’t flashed a gigantic grin when I say, ‘Hi,’ and who isn’t genuinely helpful. Thank you, security guys. You make me feel secure.
The most fun way to get around on foot is to take these back alleys. I often am not sure where I’m going to end up, but that’s the adventure of wandering through back lanes.
It should be said that most of these alleys are, in fact, full roads that are used by motorcycles and cars. And no, they’re not really big enough for that, but that’s how they’re used.
…I forgot how much fun it is to shoot in a super-shallow depth of field. I slapped my 55mm, f1.8, vintage Pentax lens on my camera and took a walk to school. This little piece of graffiti caught my eye and I shot it at f2.8 and it turned out like this.
What do you think?