CLOSE UP: Sanja Knezevic – Kamar


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© Sanja Knezevic

Shutter Hub member Sanja Knezevic  is a documentary photographer from Serbia, focusing on long-term social projects emphasising common humanity. Born in Belgrade in 1984, she graduated in photography at the Faculty of Applied Arts, University of Belgrade. Since then she has been working as a freelance photographer investing in her personal projects. Sanja is a regular contributor to National Geographic Serbia, and has has won awards for her photography, both in Serbia and abroad.

From 2012 to 2014 Sanja lived in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta. During that period she spent time traveling in the East Asia region and documenting the everyday life of new cultures she encountered.

We met Sanja through Festival Pil’ours, where Shutter Hub are taking our exhibition ‘Because We Can’ this summer. Sanja is one of the ten main exhibitors in the festival, and will be showing her project ‘Kamar’, from her time living in Jakarta. We loved the work and wanted to share it more widely, so here’s Sanja to talk through the project in her own words…

 

© Sanja Knezevic

Jakarta, with 14 million inhabitants, is a magnet for Indonesians from all over the archipelago, especially the island of Java. A look at its crowded streets provokes a dream of more prosperous life and better future in the eyes of out-comers, even those who find their roof in very unusual places.

The Kuningan bridge, located in downtown Jakarta, is not an ordinary bridge whose only purpose is to connect people from the two sides of the channel – on this bridge life breathes not only on its surface, but also inside of it. In fact, it is a “concrete building” populated by a community of people living in small rooms made out of its inner construction. The walls and ceilings of these rooms, called “kamar” in Indonesian, are “borrowed” from the bridge construction, while the floor is made out of wood. The rooms could be reached only by climbing ladders – some of them very large since a number of rooms are well above the ground.

 

© Sanja Knezevic

© Sanja Knezevic

The majority of workers are young, single men, living in separate rooms, but some of them live with their families in extremely limited space. The adaptive tenants introduced electricity to their homes from the bridge lights, and they fight the heat in the rooms with old fans. They also made a small mosque under the bridge and regularly attend its services. Small shops, called warung, are located under the bridge – selling groceries and meals like “nasi goreng” (fried rice), one of the most famous Indonesian national dishes.

 

© Sanja Knezevic

© Sanja Knezevic

These tenants work for the city government and their employer, a government subcontractor, “houses” them inside the bridge. They work as gardeners, wood cutters and street cleaners, and they work from early morning until late afternoon every day. These workers earn 70,000 rupiah a day ($6), and often work more than one shift, but even then they still struggle to save money to bring back home to their families.

 

Sanja is exhibiting her project Kamar at Festival Pil’ours, Saint Gilles Croix de Vie, France, from 8th July to 31st August 2018.

 

Do you have a favourite photographer you would like to see featured in one of our Close Up features? Or maybe you have a series of work you’d like to share? Send us an email to submissions@shutterhub.org.uk