With the planning and organisation apparently taken care of (it had started in mid-September) I travelled to Bali. My contact there had sent me a provisional itinerary taking in the areas described in my previous post. It was more than ample time-wise, so I felt confident I would get what I needed. Although I expected some rearrangement in agenda and order, it was only on arrival that I discovered, as with all best laid plans, this one had gone awry.
Pak Tjok, my Balinese batik maker, had gone shy and gone to ground. He was involved in a village wedding which in Bali take precedence over almost everything else. This I understood although apparently it meant he was practically unobtainable. My contact (a different person this time) was amazed by his reluctance to talk and be photographed as he works closely with them on a weekly basis. However, for whatever reason he had got cold feet and not even the sublime negotiation skills of Yeni, translator and fixer, could persuade him otherwise. In fact, she only managed to talk with Pak Tjok’s wife who informed Yeni that only the man of the house could make the decisions. So with that I came to a dead end with my carefully (I thought) planned course of action.
Fortunately a plan ‘b’ was developed and Yeni contacted another batik maker in the area who, after some persuasion, agreed to let me come in and photograph them in action. As a plan ‘b’ it was a pretty good scenario. I would be going in to this shoot completely cold with no background unlike what I had originally planned for. This wasn’t a problem and had it’s own merits such as not being swayed by what I was expecting to find and just shoot off the cuff. Of course I would be using the same techniques and approach as I had put in place for what I thought I was doing so in a lot of respects nothing had changed, just the personnel.
However, I wasn’t going to get to do what I had hoped to do with Pak Tjok. This set up was completely different. It was a family home making the garments, the emphasis on cheap for the masses rather than bespoke with natural dyes. Of course, I could talk with the owner but her outlook was a little less holistic than Pak Tjok’s. Whereas I would have (hypothetically speaking), been able to visit the workers’ homes, here I was actually in someone’s home already. While this was good in a way, they weren’t keen to have me stay longer than ‘office’ hours. I guess this may have been achievable if negotiations had started earlier but right now this was what I had so I needed to make the best of it. So my goalposts moved, substantially. I could still get some peripheral story of the family (and would do so), but had to decide whether it would be pertinent to the story that I wanted to tell which was that of the batik production. This will be something I will be concentrating on as I edit the photos I took and from there compile the narrative for the story.
My shot list looked like this before going to the first day of shooting;
- Front page
- Shots of eating lunch etc
- General process shots; waxing, sewing, painting, de-waxing, drying etc
- Individual portraits
- Images of the house; bedroom, kitchen living area etc
- Photos of labels on products
- Shots of final product ready for sale (bound and labelled)
I also made note of other physical attributes around the environment such as smell, sound and the feel (heat, soot etc) of the place to help with describing it afterwards and also for me to build my photos on to try in turn to make them more descriptive.