Stefano Romano Capturing The Anomaly of Jakarta

Rieska Wulandari


“There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment.”

— Robert Frank


Indonesia, especially Jakarta is a maze of life, in which all the pros and cons of living side by side, lined up to march-procession even without being able to be released as a two-sided coin.

If you succeed, you could carry on luxuries incredible live in that metropolitan, but if you are unlucky then you enter the marginal group, poor and exploited by collectors of extortion costumed with governmental uniforms who could make a fake letter or land certification and asks you to pay without clear proof of liability and all negative legal consequences will be all your own.

Thus Jakarta, which is busy creating vertical skyscrapers with its arrogant and ruthless style, in the other hand, there are people who trying to survive, also busy making horizontal labyrinth alleys next to the skyscrapers, they are shadowing under those who dare to protect this strange practical in such unnatural way. Decades it happens and Jakarta had become a double-faced city.

Stefano Romano, an Italian photographer who is married to Indonesian women, saw anomalies Jakarta when he and his wife returned home in 2012. With his camera he captures the dynamics of Jakarta, a metropolitan city glued by villages. For him, Jakarta is a city colored with miraculous phenomenon.

As a children and woman lovers and admirers, he began to documenting life in every corners of Jakarta, especially about the smiles of children who always there, in the middle smell the gutter and alley full of trash, he was astonished by Jakarta ladies in the marginal area, who never complained even when they have to take care of children with droplets of sweats,

In 2014 he returned to the same ritual, take a photo of trying to documenting the life of Jakarta. He was amazed, villagers of Jakarta can survive even in the most inhumane conditions. They still be friendly welcome people who warmly say hello, and often willing to be the object for his documentary hobby.

His visit to Indonesia and Jakarta encounter with the human variety of strong-minded people have made him determined to do something that can benefit them. His commitment is beginning to show results, Mizan Islamic book publisher in Bandung keen to record his work in a photography book entitled Kampungku Indonesia (Indonesia My Hometown) just published recently and that he had to return to Indonesia, this time for the purpose of dissemination and promotion of his new book.

Going home to Indonesia is certainly used to keep shooting and documenting, this time he start doing collaborating with many parties such as a mass media that gave him the opportunity Harian Pikiran Rakyat, he went with the editor Harry Surjana and photographing a maze of alleys behind Braga and the newspaper gave him a full-page space to present his work. One time, there is a mass media television Metro TV talk show in a prestigious segment Kick Andy, where he were invited as a special guest.

Despite growing popular in the media, his outgoing and down to earth character, remains and he committed to make a visit to some NGOs, to help them, such us the Yayasan Kebun Anggur, Yayasan Bu Grace and Iwung Foundation, those foundation are working on nurturing children and families marginalized. Stefano then interact with them and keep doing his photographing things.

His eye fell on a five-year-old girl named Songa, to his mother, Diana, Stefano asked if I could drop by and photographing the child’s family life. Diana permit while giving an address in to Stefano. July 11, 2016, Stefano did came and photograph Songa and their families,

After photographing He excused himself and said he would go back again just to stay in touch. Stefano did returned, on August 26 2016 and he again visited Songa and almost fainted because the house almost collapsed.

“I almost cried to see their house almost collapsed and sadder, knowing that this situation happens because the home was too fragile and it could not resist the contact with dirty water and rubbish heaps, really sad and dewastating,” he told the author.

He could not sleep all night because thinking about Songa and his family, this poor family living in danger the fragile home home could collapse anytime and could kill them, he then took the initiative to call some friends in Jakarta journalist whom he knew personally and began to make news for the fight for Songa.

“I could not give a damn and walk away, I could not. I had to do something, “he said.

Family Songa said the cost needed to help renovate the house was about 80 million rupiah, Stefano moved fast, considering soon he also had to return to Italy. So, in collaboration with the mass media and social sites, he launched a campaign to build a house Songa, during the first three weeks they only able to gathered a little amount of money.

However, some form of attention from the local government also acquired, Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaya Purmana also sent North Jakarta mayor to make a visit and report him directly.

It turns out the problem is not that simple, Songa’s house stands on land the state. Jakarta provincial government offered one solution, meaning this family should moved to Marunda Flat, but the solution was rejected by Songa father, Daniel, the reason is too far away and they would lose their livelihood.

Thankfully poor families have affixed one of the biggest Indonesian party, PDIP banner in their home, as a divider between the living room and sleeping mats. Apparently Stefano photographs featuring the family with PDIP banner and logo attracted PDIP chairman Mewagati, so she sent her cadres to see the family situation. They were lucky, the party willing to help the family to cover all the budget needs to renovate the home plus the cost for renting temporary place during the renovation project.

The photographer become a hero, now every body wanted him to visit their home, take the picture and published in the newspaper or mass media, hoping that miracles could happen also to them.

“ I received hundred and hundred of messages on my Facebook account, telephone and whatsapp asking me to visit them and take their picture. Its crazy, they think I am a hero, but I am not,” he said.

Stefano Romano, as a photographer made his photographs lift the humanist side that made the other man was touched and want to do something. “There is one thing the photograph must Contain, the humanity of the moment,” said Robert Frank and this is what is important in photography.

However, the pros and cons actually still hanging in the air. Songa’s family occupied land belong to the state and one day, they would soon be evicted from there. This social activity in this moment is a huge success, but also it could be a bad precedent because there is a dualism attitude, where this party should support government programs to clean the area from the illegal users, instead provide financial support even build houses and pay rent these families during construction carried out the estimated time one to two months

One positive thing, Songa and his family could survive longer, but do not be surprised and shocked if someday the anomaly of Jakarta hit them again with a bitter situation, where they have to move for the legal and healthy environmental reason.

Yes, that Jakarta, a city with a dynamic and twists and turns of struggle, that we may learn that obeying the law, is one of the continuity of life sustained basis but still impossible to do.

(Rieska Wulandari – Indonesian freelancer Journalist based in Milan)


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Indonesia terutama Jakarta adalah labirin kehidupan, di dalamnya semua pro dan kontra hidup bersisian, berjejer berarak-arak bahkan berdekapan tanpa bisa dilepaskan seperti dua sisi keping mata uang.

Kalau Anda sukses, hidup di Jakarta membawa pada kemewahan yang luar biasa, namun jika Anda kurang beruntung maka Anda masuk dalam kelompok sudah jatuh tertimpa tangga, sudah miskin dieksploitasi pula oleh para pemungut pungli berkostum preman dan seragam pemerintah yang tega membuat surat sertifikat tanah palsu dan meminta Anda membayar tanpa jelas bukti pertanggungjawaban dan konsekuensi hukumnya.

Demikianlah Jakarta, yang sibuk membuat pencakar langit vertikal nan angkuh dan bengis namun di sisi lain, ada yang mencoba bertahan, sibuk membuat labirin horizontal di gang gang kumuh, menggandul pada mereka yang berani mengayomi dengan cara tak wajar. Berpuluh-puluh tahun pembiaran itu terjadi dan Jakarta menjadi kota berwajah ganda.

Stefano Romano, seorang fotografer asal Italia yang menikah dengan perempuan Indonesia, sempat melihat anomali Jakarta ketika ia bersama istrinya pulang kampung pada tahun 2012. Dengan kameranya ia menangkap dinamika Jakarta, sebuah kota metropolitan yang direkatkan oleh kampung-kampung. Baginya, Jakarta adalah fenomena kota yang penuh keajaiban.

Sebagai pecinta anak-anak dan pengagum wanita, ia mulai mendokumentasikan kehidupan di pojok-pojok Jakarta, tentang senyum anak-anak yang tetap merekah di tengah baunya comberan dan gang yang penuh sampah, tentang wanita yang tak pernah mengeluh meski harus mengasuh anak-anak dengan tetesan peluh.

Tahun 2014 ia kembali melakukan ritual yang sama, mengambil foto sambal berusaha meresap kehidupan Jakarta. Ia kagum, penduduk kampung Jakarta bisa bertahan bahkan dalam kondisi paling tidak manusiawi sekalipun dan masih bisa ramah menyambut dan menyapanya, bahkan bersedia menjadi objek foto dan modelnya.

Kunjungannya ke Indonesia dan perjumpaannya dengan ragam manusia Jakarta bermental baja ini membuatnya bertekad untuk melakukan sesuatu yang bisa memberikan manfaat untuk mereka. Tekadnya mulai memperlihatkan hasil, penerbit buku Islami Mizan di Bandung tertarik untuk membukukan karyanya dalam sebuah buku Fotografi berjudul Kampungku Indonesia yang terbit baru baru ini dan Ia pun harus kembali ke Indonesia, kali ini untuk keperluan penyebaran dan promosi buku barunya.

Mudik ke Indonesia tentu digunakannya untuk kembali memotret, kali ini banyak pihak berkolaborasi dengannya. Ada media massa Pikiran Rakyat yang memberinya kesempatan memotret labirin gang di belakang jalan Braga dan memberinya ruangan satu halaman penuh untuk mempresentasikan karyanya, ada media massa televisi Metro TV dalam segmen talkshow bergengsi Kick Andy yang mengundangnya sebagai narasumber. Meski beranjak popular di media, pribadinya yang supel dan membumi, tetap menjadi prinsipnya. Ia tetap berkomitmen melakukan kunjungan ke beberapa LSM antara lain Yayasan Kebun Anggur, yayasan Bu Grace dan Iwung Foundation, yang mengayomi anak anak dan keluarga marjinal, berinteraksi dengan mereka dan memotret,

Matanya tertumbuk pada seorang anak berumur lima tahun bernama Songa, kepada Ibunya, Diana, Stefano bertanya apakah bisa mampir dan memotret kehidupan keluarga anak tersebut. Diana mengijinkan sambil memberikan alamat pada Stefano, pada 11 Juli 2016, Stefano benar benar datang dan memotret Songa beserta keluarganya,

Usai memotret Ia pamit dan mengatakan akan kembali lagi sekedar untuk bersilaturahmi. Stefano tidak berdusta, 26 Agustus 2016 ia kembali mengunjungi Songa dan terkejut karena rumah Songa nyaris ambruk.

“Aku hampir menangis melihat rumah mereka hampir rubuh dan lebih sedih lagi, hal yang mengakibatkan situasi itu adalah karena rumah yang rapuh ini kerap kena hantaman air kotor dan timbunan sampah, sungguh menyedihkan,” tuturnya kepada penulis.

Semalaman ia tidak dapat tidur karena memikirkan Songa dan keluarganya, pertaruhannya bisa nyawa karena rumah keluarga tersebut bisa rubuh menimpa keluarga tersebut kapan saja, Ia kemudian berinisiatif memanggil beberapa teman wartawan Jakarta yang dikenalnya secara pribadi dan mulai membuat berita untuk memperjuangkan nasib Songa.

“Saya bisa saja tak ambil pusing dan berlalu, tapi setiap mengingat sorot mata Songa, saya tak sanggup. Saya harus melakukan sesuatu,” tuturnya.

Keluarga Songa mengatakan, biaya yang dibutuhkan untuk membantu merenovasi rumah itu sekitar 80 juta, Stefano bergerak cepat, mengingat tak lama lagi Ia juga harus kembali ke Italia. Maka, berkolaborasi dengan media massa dan situs sosial, Ia meluncurkan kampanye untuk membangun rumah Songa, selama tiga minggu pertama uang yang

Namun demikian, beberapa bentuk perhatian dari pemerintah lokal juga didapatkannya, Gubernur Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaya Purmana juga mengutus walikota Jakarta Utara untk turun tangan, melihat dan melaporkan langsung situasinya kepada Ahok.

Ternyata masalah tak sesederhana itu, rumah Songa berdiri di atas tanah negara. Pemerintah DKI mulai menawarkan solusi, yaitu pindah ke Rusun Marunda, namun ditolak oleh ayah Songa, Daniel, alasannya terlalu jauh dan mereka akan kehilangan mata pencaharian apabila pindah ke sana.

Syukurlah keluarga kurang mampu ini kemudian menempelkan spanduk partai PDIP di rumah mereka, sebagai pemisah antara ruang tamu dan matras tidur. Rupanya foto-foto Stefano yang menampilkan keluarga yang tiap detik bertarung dengan bahaya ini menarik perhatian ketua PDIP Mewagati, kadernya kemudian turun melihat langsung situasi keluarga tersebut.

Sebagai fotografer Stefano Romano, jelas karya fotonya berhasil mengangkat sisi humanis yang membuat manusia lain terenyuh dan mau berbuat sesuatu. “There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment.” demikian kata Robert Frank.

Namun demikian, pro kontra sebetulnya masih mengambang di udara. Tanah yang ditempati keluarga Songa adalah tanah negara dan suatu saat, mereka pasti akan segera digusur dari sana. Apakah kegiatan social ini sia-sia dan bisa menjadi preseden buruk karena ada dualisme sikap partai berlogo banteng yang harusnya mendukung program pemerintah dalam menertibkan pelanggaran hokum, malah memberikan sokongan dana bahkan membangun rumah dan juga membayarkan kontrakan keluarga tersebut selama masa pembangunan dilaksanakan yang diperkirakan makan waktu satu hingga dua bulan.

Di sisi lain, sebagai fotografer Stefano punya pertanggungjawaban yang juga menunggunya, yaitu pertanggungjawaban sosial, ketika secara nyata-nyata semua orang tahu bahwa tanah yang mereka tempati adalah tanah antah berantah, bahkan Ahok sudah mengatakan ini tanah illegal, tapi karena bantuan suatu partai, keluarga tersebut bisa tetap menancapkan tiang pancang dan pondasi rumahnya di sana.

Secara tidak langsung, kegiatan sosial ini juga menimbulkan masalah baru, yaitu ketika Jakarta mencoba membebaskan dirinya dari jeratan manusia manusia tak bertanggungjawab yang bersembunyi dalam praktek premanisme, pungli dan penipuan yang mencekik kaum marginal, ada partai yang malah menggelontorkan dananya untuk merenovasi rumah mereka. Sekali lagi inilah dua sisi mata uang tersebut, ketika yang pro dan kontra berjalan berpelukan bersama sama.

Penulis hanya berharap, Songa dan keluarganya bisa bertahan lama dan tumbuh normal sempurna, namun penulis juga tidak akan heran dan terkejut apabila pada suatu saat amomali Jakarta itu datang menghantam mereka, yaitu ketika pemerintah yang berkuasa-bisa jadi Ahok, bisa jadi bukan Ahok, mencoba untuk membereskan Jakarta dan rumah yang sudah di renovasi itu, menjadi salah satu yang wajib digusur, karena memang secara formalitas hukum, rumah tersebut tak jelas pertanggungjawabannya.

Ya, begitulah Jakarta, sebuah kota dengan dinamika dan lika liku perjuangannya, semoga kita dapat belajar bahwa menaati hukum, adalah salah satu basis keberlangsungan kehidupan yang berkelanjutan.

(Rieska Wulandari- freelance jurnalis berbasis di Milan)



10 Comments to "Stefano Romano Capturing The Anomaly of Jakarta"

  1. ROZA  1 August, 2019 at 14:16

    Catatan diari lensa seorang fotografer yang diolah dengan penuh emosi…that is what Mr. Romano had did…great job Stef

  2. J C  20 October, 2016 at 17:23


  3. Linda Cheang  10 October, 2016 at 08:55

    Senang membaca tulisan dwi bahasa ini dan saya sepakat dengan T. Moken hal proof reading vs proofreader.

    Bravo, Stefano.

    So sad when you came to Bandung for a program by Mizan, no one told me that you would be participating in the event.
    Even I have a friend who works for Mizan, she did not let me and some Bandung writers to know.

  4. Alvina VB  7 October, 2016 at 23:20

    Brava Rieska W. for the writing! Bravo Stephano for your humanity work! By the way, I met Djoko W.S (YKA) when I was in Jakarta last month and he mentioned about Songa’s tragic incident. Unfortunately, some political opportunists shamelessly used that tragic event for their own gains. Sigh…..Speechless….
    Rieska: I agree with T. Moken that you need a proofreader, please do not use a Google Translate service. Keep writing!!!
    James: Idem sama mbakyu yg di Kona, he..he….

  5. Dj. 813  7 October, 2016 at 22:54

    Untung ada A Hok yang bisa meminfahkan mereka ke Rumah Susun .
    Dengan demikian, mereka tidak selamanya tnggal dirumah kumuh dipinggir kali
    yang tidak hygienis .
    Gracie Amico . . . ! ! !

  6. T.Moken  7 October, 2016 at 10:02

    I would rather say: Everybody needs a proofreader rather than Everybody needs proofreading.

    If Nurlina said: “Everybody needs proofreading…….” , this sentence means that you proofread the person not someone’s writing.

    Anyway, I am proud of Mr Stefano Romano who contributes his writing skills and pictures regularly to Baltyra. Thank you.

  7. Lani  7 October, 2016 at 01:05

    James: klu hanya visit ya okelah……… klu utk menetap it’s simple to say thanks but no thanks

  8. Nurlina  6 October, 2016 at 19:05

    Writing an article in a foreign language is not an easy task. It takes quite big efforts. Despite this challenge, you have done it. You did produce an article in a foreign language. Thus, please alow me to congratulate you. A gentle suggestion may be, a quick proofreading will make your article even better. For example: you wrote ‘Stefano Romano, an Italian photographer who is married to Indonesian women’. I think what you mean is ‘woman’ instead of ‘women’ as far as I am concern. Another example : ‘…where he were invited as a special guest’. In this sentence, I think you would like to write: ‘… he was invited as a special guest’. Everybody needs proofreading even native speakers. Therefore, keep on writing. I am quite sure one day you will reach a stage where you can clearly differentiate between Indonesian and English languages. Happy writing dear author.

  9. Stefano Romano  6 October, 2016 at 17:22

    Terima kasih banget Rieska for this asrticle

  10. James  6 October, 2016 at 15:00

    1……siapa suruh datang Jakaarta

    para Kenthirs mau ke Jakarta ?

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