The history of Photography in Indonesia


Walter Bentley Woodbury & James Page

In 1851 Woodbury, who had already become a professional photographer, went to Australia and soon found work in the engineering department of the Melbourne waterworks.
He photographed the construction of ducts and other waterworks as well as various buildings in Melbourne. He received a medal for his photography in 1854.

Walter Bentley Woodbury
Walter Bentley Woodbury

At some point in the mid-1850s Woodbury met expatriate British photographer James Page.
In 1857 the two left Melbourne and moved to Batavia (now Jakarta), Dutch East Indies, arriving 18 May 1857, and established the partnership of Woodbury & Page that same year.

James Page - Walter Bentley Woodbury
Left: James Page -- Right: Walter B. Woodbury
Het atelier van Woodbury & Page in Batavia
The studio of Woodbury & Page in Batavia

During most of 1858 Woodbury & Page photographed in Central and East Java, producing large views of the ruined temples near Surakarta, amongst other subjects, before 1 September of that year.
After their tour of Java, by 8 December 1858 Woodbury and Page had returned to Batavia.

In 1859 Woodbury returned to England to arrange a regular supplier of photographic materials for his photographic studio and he contracted the London firm Negretti and Zambra to market Woodbury & Page photographs in England.

Woodbury returned to Java in 1860 and during most of that year travelled with Page through Central and West Java along with Walter's brother, Henry James Woodbury (born 1836 – died 1873), who had arrived in Batavia in April 1859.

On 18 March 1861 Woodbury & Page moved to new premises, also in Batavia, and the studio was renamed Photographisch Atelier van Walter Woodbury, also known as Atelier Woodbury.
The firm sold portraits, views of Java, stereographs, cameras, lenses, photographic chemicals and other photographic supplies.
These premises continued to be used until 1908, when the firm was dissolved.

Photos from Woodbury & Page
Some photos from Woodbury & Page

In his career Woodbury produced topographic, ethnographic and especially portrait photographs.
He photographed in Australia, Java, Sumatra, Borneo and London.
Although individual photographers were rarely identified on Woodbury & Page photographs, between 1861 and 1862 Walter B. Woodbury occasionally stamped the mounts of his photographs: "Photographed by Walter Woodbury, Java".

In late January or early February 1863, Woodbury left Java to return to England, because of ill health

Walter B. Woodbury was born in Manchester, England on 26 June 1834
He died on 5 September 1885 whilst on holiday at Margate, England.
He was buried at Abney Park Cemetery in Stoke Newington close to London where his family memorial stands to this day.

Isidore van Kinsbergen

Isidore van Kinsbergen proved to be at arrival in Batavia (it current Jakarta) on 26 augusts 1851, a man of a lot of brio.
Thus he painted the settings for the Théâtre Français the Batavia, portrayed he soldiers and, he control gave drivers to lithografisch the etablissement H.M. of village and sang and acted he at professional level and even became he director of the Théâtre Français.
The foundation for this brio had been laid in brugge, where Van Kinsbergen got tekenles to the urban academy for clean arts and was trained to graveur.
In Ghent, where he lived as from 1842, he probably worked for the lithographer Gustavus Jacqmain, but also specialised himself he in the Chant français to the Ghent academy. After the round-off of the song study Van Kinsbergen to Paris have left both to be painter - and is build song brio further. Hard proving is lacking for this however.
Daughters of Sultan Hamengku Buwana VI around 1862
Daughters of Sultan
Hamengku Buwana
VI around 1862

When he added himself as from 1860 seriously on the new medium fotografie its order portfolio was rapidly filled.
Thus he determined ' mission photographer ' in 1862, as a photographer part of the consignment to Siam (thailand) and was he with that the first that in Siam about thirteen unique prerecordings of Buddhist temples, made palates and people.
Later that year travelled with he in the consequence of gouverneur-generaal baron L.A.J.W. Sloet of the Beele, what the occasion him offered to make Pakubuwana IX of Surakarta and sultan Hamengku Buwana VI of Yoyakarta beside area prerecordings for the first railway route on Java, impressive serials portraits to the court of soesoehoenan.
A second government travel concerning Java, Madura and bali followed in 1865, to which Van Kinsbergen coupled a long stay in vorstenrijk the Buleleng (North bali).
He made there a serial portraits which belong to the peak of its oeuvre and a splendid dwarsdoorsnede give of the total community within the palate walls, of the raja and is women up to and including priests, dancers and slaves.

During the travel of 1862 also the first antiquity prerecordings were made of the Borobudur and the Prambanancomplex.
To be albuminedrukken persuaded the government of nederlands-Indië and the Bataviaasch genootschap of arts and sciences of it archaeology and the study of antiquities to a strong scientific of giving impetus by offering a multiannual contract Van Kinsbergen for the photographic engagements of the most important antiquities on Java (1863-1867).

Borobudur by van Kinsbergen c. 1873. A Dutch flag is shown on top of the main dome.
Borobudur by van Kinsbergen
A Dutch flag is shown on top of the
main dome.
This resulted in an eventual serial which characterises himself by monumentaliteit and an express artistic vision exceeded and with that the aimed at documentation value far.
The photograph has been carefully chosen by the lichtval very contrastrijk, living and indringend.
In its in situ antiquity prerecordings he has expressly involved moreover nature, two present bringing together which reinforce each other, whereas in the sculptuuroverzichtfoto's Van Kinsbergen the master of mise-en-scène prove to be.

During its photograph forwarding Van Kinsbergen new finds also did all kinds of, which more or less into self-made turned him archaeologist: he did not dig and left sepulchres, outlined and made plans and dwarsprofielen in to oppress enthousiame for archaeology and the fotografie.
Its months long stay on on 2.000 m. altitude lain Dieng-plateau (central Java) with its early-early-ask, halfly in the swampy ground sunk tempeltjes of this the most beautiful example is.
But also prerecordings of East Javanese woman Panatarantempelcomplex are and Buddhist world monument, photographed in 1873 the Candi Borobudur can be considered as the succeeded results of an absolute tour the force.

Within its Bataviase studio he made especially many beside portraits ' type photograph ' where local people in their characteristic clothing and occupations were fixed.
The variety in the academic attitudes of the head role players, the suggestion of action and careful mise-en-scène betray its theatre context. Some scenes became thereby to tableaux vivants with which he are wrap up public could and that in the form of engravings also 19- eeuwse French and Dutch reisbladen were spread.
To be photograph characterises himself especially by an exceptional directheid, also the nudes, what produced expressive, indringende photograph in combination with the long tone scale of the pictures.

Isidore van Kinsbergen were born in brugge in 1821, he died in Batavia 1905
Source: University of Leiden, The Netherlands


Onnes (or Ohannes) Kurkdjian, born in 1851, was an Armenian photographer who was based in Yerevan for part of the 19th century.
Kurkdjian later emigrated from Armenia.
He lived in Singapore for a short period - spending just over two months there in 1885 and working for another Armenian photographer.
He then moved to the port town of Surabaya on the island of Java, where he continued his profession as a photographer.
He eventually owned a photographic "atelier" studio in Surabaya, with more than thirty photographers and darkroom assistants, producing photographs that are now highly prized for their topographical and anthropological content.
The studio's photographs were also reproduced on picture postcards.
He died in Surabaya in 1903 (some accounts say 1901, or 1904).
After his death the company was taken over by the pharmaceutical import company "Helmig".

Kassian Céphas

In 1885, J.W. Ijzerman (the first president of the Archaeological Association of Yogyakarta) discovered the hidden base of the Borobudur.
Northern side of the Shiva temple, Prambanan, Céphas, 1889-1890
Prambanan 1889-1890
The path around it was dug out and photographer Kassian Céphas was asked to photograph all 160 reliefs that were discovered.
Afterwards, the reliefs were covered up again, which is why the photographs made by Céphas are the only available source for studies to this very day.

Kassian Céphas also photographed the temples of the Lara Jonggrang complex in Prambanan.
He was a very precise photographer, whose pictures could later be used for the restoration of these temples.

Thirty-seven photographs from the collection can be attributed to Kassian with certainty.
Kassian Céphas had three sons who worked as photographers for shorter or longer periods of time.
His oldest son Sem (1970-1918) succeeded him as court photographer for the Sultan of Yogyakarta.
Of seven pictures in the collection it is unknown whether they were made by Kassian or by one of his sons.
They have therefore all been included under the name of Céphas.
There are also forty more photographs that have been inventoried as 'anonymous' for now, but which are thought to have been made by Kassian Céphas or one of his sons.

Kassian Céphas' photographs are of huge importance for our knowledge of nineteenth-century Javanese cultural history.

Christiaan Benjamin Nieuwenhuis

Mentawai men 1895
Mentawai men 1895
Nieuwenhuis came to Jakarta in 1884 as a member of the Military Band. He learned to be a photographer there at the studio of Koene & Co.
In 1892 he had a studio of his own in Padang on Sumatra, where he made calling card portraits of Europeans and wealthy Sumatrans.

Payakumbuh market 1900
Payakumbuh market 1900
Nieuwenhuis travelled through Sumatra a lot, photographing the landscape.
He gave special attention to iron bridges, railways and train stations.
His photographs also show the indigenous population and the various aspects of their culture.
He photographed the homes of Minangkabauands, street markets, women doing laundry in the river, and men at the mosque.

Nieuwenhuis also took pictures of the original population in traditional dress.
The photographs were sold to tourists, in albums or individually.
They ultimately found their way to Europe, where the pictures appeared in popular travel stories and scientific essays.