Indonesian Photographer Tackles Mental Illness Stigma With Art

From a very early age, we learn that one’s bedroom is a very personal, sacred, and intimate space — and visitors to said space must be thoroughly cleared before entry.


This space becomes even more private as we become adults, and for those living with mental illness, the bedroom can become a haven of sorts, where one can ride out the blur of difficult days. One photographer has chosen to capture these intimate spaces as a way to combat the stigma of mental illness in a country where misinformation, taboos, and stereotypes loom large.


Dpi Asrul Fajar is a Jakarta-based photographer whose new photo series, A Stream Under the Table, shows the private bedroom spaces of several Indonesian individuals struggling with mental illness. Mental illness is particularly taboo in Indonesia, where even the mention of it sparks discomfort and negative reactions. By showing the real, personal spaces of those with mental illness, Fajar hopes to strike a chord of compassion and understanding among those who see his work.

“For me, bedroom pictures give me a wider perspective on my subjects, how they live, what they do, their moods, et-cetera,” he shares in an interview with Vice. “They also help me and other people to dive into the subjects’ world. It’s that sense of familiarity that I wanted to capture, when someone is familiar with something, they’d find it easier to read into my work.”

We have posted here a couple times about the state of mental health awareness in Indonesia, and although strides are being made, it is still hugely important that stigma be battled continuously and on an individual level. This is the work that A Stream Under the Table manages to accomplish, by giving a face and a sense of reality to this very pressing issue.

A Stream Under the Table was recently shown at Malaysia’s Obscura Festival, and was also included in a photo book by Dienacht Publishing. You can visit the link here to see more photos from this dynamic series.


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