Mysterious images of an exotic island far off in the East Indies began to circulate in Europe early in the 1900s, and the first-ever collection of black and white photographs of this island — Bali — were published in two volumes in 1920. During an era when Europe was reeling from the horrors of World War I and in fear of a communist revolution, German photographer Gregor Krauser’s images immediately caused a small sensation.
They struck a cord with the disillusioned Europeans hungry for new experiences and a tropical haven, and soon after, free-spirited intellectuals, writers and artists began visiting the island to document an idyllic and seductive world.
Nearly a century after this utopia was revealed, and as the modernization of Bali speeds relentlessly into the 21st century, contemporary photographers with modern sensibilities and technology are still able to capture a “Hidden Paradise.”
Hidden Paradise is an international art photography exhibition by 12 photographers, drawing from all corners of the globe. Six photographers from Bali, one from Java and six international photographers showcase glimpses of paradise captured through their lenses.
The show features work by Ida Bagus Alit, Ida Bagus Astara, Ida Bagus Gede Indra Sukma Advaita, Ida Ayu Ega Rahayuni, Ida Ayu Chrisna Dewi and Emile Satyawarman of Indonesia; Jason Childs and Jill Gocher of Australia; Chieko Maeda of Japan; Jiri Kudrna of Switzerland; Rachel Harding of Britian; and Luciana Ferrero of Italy.
“It is important for the public in Bali to have more opportunities to view and appreciate photographic exhibitions, especially outside of a gallery environment,” said Ida Bagus Alit, the organizer of the exhibition and one of the photographers whose work is displayed. “It is also necessary to exhibit work by young, local photographers with experienced and successful international photographers to encourage them to develop their passion and skills.”
A photo by Australian national Childs, an internationally renowned surfing photographer and longtime Bali resident, depicts Balinese surfer Mega Semadhi. Called “Mega Praying for Surf,” it features the surfer framed within the emerald green hollows of a wave at the famous Padang Padang reef on the Bukit Peninsula in southern Bali. The strong offshore wind fans the wave clean, and the camera captures the fine aquatic spray.
Award-winning Balinese photographer Ida Bagus Astara’s image titled “Batubolong,” shot in black and white, focuses on the silhouette of a coastal island rock formation with a small hole through which light emerges.
The rock is backlit by the setting sun and shrouded in clouds. In the foreground of the shot, using a slow shutter speed, he captured the sweeping motion of the ocean’s tidal movement, adding a beautiful element to the photograph.
Young Balinese photographer Ida Ayu Chrisna Dewi’s photograph “Fly to Freedom” juxtaposes a parasailing enthusiast gliding in a limitless blue sky set against a construction site. The man-made, rigid concrete and steel framework invades the natural environment, appearing out of harmony and is almost offensive.
Gocher’s image “Amed, Boys & Girls” immediately captivates with a black-and-white shot of children playing on a seashore. The photo provides wonderful visual disparities: white shells against black sand; the water’s current rippling the surface, creating a fragmented crystal-like effect; a squatting boy’s face paired against sets of legs. This piece is rich in textures and contrasts.
Ferrero captures the drama from behind the scenes of a traditional Balinese wayang kulit performance. Her subject, “Deni”, a young dalang (puppet master), is caught in action as he orchestrates the shadow play. While both hands are manipulating puppets, his facial expressions reveal his energetic and passionate delivery of the story’s narrative. This is a highlight of the exhibition.
“Little Angel” by Ida Bagus Alit adds a heartwarming and humorous essence to the exhibition. In his mixed-media image of a young Balinese girl photographed in traditional dress, he paints a pair of angel wings onto the canvas, attached to the body of the young girl in bright and dynamic colors.
“Crossroads at Sunset,” by Kudrna, combines hi-tech photographic equipment and the dramatic beauty of nature in an extraordinary 200 by 60-centimeter image. He has developed a camera that captures images while rotating 360 degrees. The image is then fused together using digital technology to produce a wide-angle view of the late afternoon light over expanses of rice fields flooded in water. The deep blue sky is reflected in the water that is divided by four green strips of grass piers running through the rice fields.
Ida Bagus Gede Indra Sukma Advaita’s captivating mixed-media work, “Angel & Demon,” spans a 380 by 135 cm canvas. A photo of a dancing Balinese girl is printed on the canvas, upon which the young artist has painted a demonic phallic symbol “ejaculating” toward the girl. The subject is engulfed by imagery and motifs, adding to the motion and the energy of the narrative.
This exhibition is in the Balinese house of a Brahmin family surrounded by gardens and with a collection of traditional and modern abstract and figurative sculptures made by this well-known family of wood carvers.
The exhibition gives the public a chance to experience and appreciate Balinese culture through contemporary photography.