Against All Odds — Two Indonesian Maids Dream of Going Pro

Originally published on Bokeh on 25 July 2015

At DigitalRev, we’ll be the first to admit that sometimes we get lost in our passion for pushing the limits of our equipment.

We may occasionally forget the value of gear in our pursuit to review the best equipment available today in the market, although our efforts are all for the sake of you, the dear reader.

Bringing us back down to Earth is a recent feature by Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post on two Indonesian domestic helpers in the city who have a passion for photography.

In a two-part series they shed a little light on Risna Hermanto, 30, and Asti Maria, 33.

Self Portrait by Risna Hermanto

Risna arrived in the city as a young high school graduate back in 2004, while Asti moved seven years ago in 2008. Both of them were keen to document their experiences in this brave new world, but financial constraints kept both of them from being able to afford DSLRs.

“I saved money for more than two years and got a DSLR in 2010” — Risna Hermanto

Risna brings her camera out to shoot every Sunday on her days off, and also experiments indoors, where the still environment forces her to be creative.

By Risna Hermanto

Using the self-timer was a technique she learned through online tutorial videos, but she says she learned the most about photography by joining Lensational, a group that seeks to “empower women in developing countries economically and emotionally by equipping them with digital cameras and photography training”.

Image from Lensational

Asti Maria’s journey with photography began in 2012 when she purchased a point-and-shoot with her savings. She would practice when her employers sent her out to the market, or when she went hiking on the weekends.

“I wanted to show people the landscapes of Hong Kong and say, ‘You must go there.’ I wanted to show how beautiful the nature is.” — Asti Maria

By Asti Maria

Soon after she participated in a contest held by Indografers, a Hong Kong-based Indonesian photography club, and won her first DSLR.

She joined Lensational to learn more about her new camera, and met friends such as Risna.

By Asti Maria

While Asti wishes to become a professional landscape and wedding photographer when she returns to her home in Malang, she’ll set aside that dream for now and open a snack shop which is more stable.

In an explaination many photographers can relate to, she told the South China Morning Post that: “It’s difficult to be a photographer in Indonesia because everyone can have a DSLR. It’s competitive. Sometimes you have to lower your price to get customers. So we must find a new way to find money from photography.”

Still, both of these photographers will soon have their work shown in Hong Kong, thanks to a public exhibition organized by Lensational that will focus on the photography of migrant workers in Hong Kong.

The exhibit will be on display from August 15–17 at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre on 10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui.