Edinburg Napier University, Edinburg , United Kingdom
The paper looks at the thematic and stylistic shifts in the photographic representation of industrial machinery and factory interiors in Java at the turn of the 20th century. The analysis will discuss the impetus behind the vernacular display of machinery photographs and the orchestration of social hierarchies on the factory floor. Often situated in souvenir, company, or family albums, photographs of factory machine and interior views often serve the compositional purposes of the image, merely as comparative indicators of scale, rather than document the craftsmanship of the working class. The idiomatic nature of machinery photographs in colonial Java was the celebration of colonial industry rather than highlights of manufacturing process, which partly explained photographs’ visual inconsistency, unpredictability, and clumsiness. Drawing from selected industrial photographic albums from archives in the Netherland, Indonesia and Australia, this paper argues that the significance of the photographs and the albums lies in their idiomatic nature as quasi-documents of the colonial industry: their main purpose and use value primarily was not to document specific technological advancements; they were devised to celebrate colonial advancement in the colony and industrialists at large.
Dr. Alexander Supartono is an art historian, curator and educator. His work seeks to situate historical and contemporary photographic and inter-media art practice within broader visual culture debates as well as advance this knowledge to academic, art specialist and wider audiences.