Global Lens Reflections on life, the universe, and everything

Getting high

Rice being dried in the sun in Berbah, Indonesia. Rice is the traditional staple of the Javanese diet.

This is the reverse of the image from two weeks ago, where I went low to capture the drama. Here I got high. I was in Java in 2007, part of a shoot for the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance about the impact of world trade policies on rice production in Third World countries, in this case Indonesia. I photographed rice farmers in the field, rice farmers at home, rice farmers drying rice by spreading it on the highway, rice farmers taking their rice to market on bicycles, well, you get the picture. Around the village of Berbah, which is near Jogyakarta, I shot people drying rice in a commercial drying yard, where they regularly rake the rice to keep it drying evenly. I wasn't moved by the drama of the shots, so I decided to climb into a ruined building along one side of the rice drying yard. I found a little ledge on the second story and eased out on it til I got to a place where I could hang on to a piece of exposed rebar with one hand and lean way out over the yard, holding my camera at arm's length, and then click-click-click when a worker walked underneath. I think the result worked well. What didn't work well is that after a couple of minutes the rebar decided it couldn't hold me any longer (it was accustomed to lighter weight Javanese, I guess), and started to pull out of the brick wall. A rather dramatic scene ensued, the end result of which was that a bunch of broken bricks ended up tumbling down on to the rice and one of my arms was badly lacerated. But I managed not to drop the camera. I got the picture I wanted, and a bunch of Javanese rice workers thought it was pretty amusing entertainment. Hey, I aim to please.

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