Monday, 7 September 2015

Juan Pablo Ampudia | Love Me

Here is one of the better multimedia/photographic work I've seen coming out of the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop since its inception, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Love Me is a multimedia photo documentary on "warias" in Bali, Indonesia by Juan Pablo Ampudia.

In Indonesia, biological men who believe that they are born with the souls of women are known as "warias." The term is a combination of two Indonesian words: "wanita" which means woman and "pria" which means man. As a group, warias are diverse, encompassing what cross-dressers, transsexuals, drag queens, and effeminate gay men would be called in the West.

I'm sure many of my readers would be surprised to learn that transgender people can live openly in Indonesia, a country with the world's largest Muslim population.  That said, Indonesian warias are generally different from transgender women in the United States as an example. For religious reasons, many are not interested in sex-reassignment surgeries and believe that they were born as males, and must return to God when they die.

Photo © Juan Pablo Ampudia-All Rights Reserved
However, living openly does not mean total or even partial acceptance from the community at large. Juan Pablo tells us that the status of transvestites, transsexuals and other transgender persons in Indonesia is complicated. Cross-dressing is not, per se, illegal and some public tolerance is given to some of those working in beauty salons or in the entertainment industry. However, the law does not protect transgender people from discrimination or harassment. Neither does it provide for sex reassignment surgery to those who seek it, nor does it allow transgender persons to gain new legal documents should they opt for the transition. Most discrimination is directed at transgender women, who face challenges with stable employment, prejudice, and housing.

The videos and photographs by Juan Pablo were made in bars in Bali's Seminyak, a mixed tourist  and residential area on the west coast of the island. It's also the centre of life for hordes of the island's expatriates and tourists. The talented characters who work in these bars, seek to show to their country and to the society that they exist, and aided by international tourism, raise awareness among young indonesians about equality and human rights.

Juan Pablo Ampudia is an account director for an advertising agency based in Mexico City, who describes himself as "just a regular guy that uses photography as a tool for self-observation; to achieve my personal human growth."

I think you'll agree he's way more than that.