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”all of us….need art — film and television, story and song — that closes that gap between representation and reality, instead of prying the two further apart.”  - Bina Shah


            The connections between colonialism, the image, and the archive are complex and fraught.  On the one hand, the images that arose during the colonial period often represent the few photographic records that exist of many non-European cultures.  On the other, such images were often used to further exotify, and often dehumanize, the individuals depicted.  We are left, therefore, not only with a physical archive of images but also with its baggage and a serious question – how do we now photograph in parts of the world where the image has been used as a tool of “othering?”  While living in Central Java for ten months in 2012 and 2013, I began wrestling with this question and continue to do so.  The body of work that came out of that time Men You Might Know – represents my engagement of that question during those months.
            Every day, I would set out from my home and walk the streets of Salatiga, a medium sized town in Central Java, which is among the most densely populated places in the world.  I would meet countless people on my walks – tire repairmen, students, minibus drivers, small business owners – the individuals who define and bring life to the streets of towns across Indonesia, where lines between private and public spaces are often blurred.  Men would inevitably inquire as to where I was from, where I was going, and where I lived in town.  After chatting for a while, I would go on my way.  Eventually, in an effort to capture the openness and curiosity of the culture that I lived in, I began to photograph these men.  These portraits offer perspective on what it is like to live in a culture that values personal interaction above suspicion and distance. The perspective offered in these portraits is one that is often lost in mainstream media representations of men in developing countries, who are frequently represented as threats, and is particularly important in a policy climate that continues to essentialize “the other.”