• Международный фестиваль Квир-культуры в Санкт-Петербурге

English (United Kingdom)Russian (CIS)

Diego Verges



The story of my Ludruk essay started exactly one year ago. I was doing an interview for The Light Magazine with Ignatius Untung as journalist at the end of my first trip to Indonesia, in 2010. He suddenly started to talk about different powerful photo stories and one of them was Ludruk.

I suddenly felt in love with the idea of an entire theater doing a traditional show performance by Lady boys. Was it more interesting when Ignatius told me that the Waria (transvestite in bahasa Indonesian) lived under the stage of the theater. I imagine and dream an entire essay telling the story of this small community.

One year later, in April 2011 I was again in Indonesia, in Surabaya. Ready to take a look at the theater, the performance and the subjects of my future essay. For this work I was helped by Ali Nurdin and Roy Goenawan, who made as assistance and translator of Javanesse language, the local speaking in Surabaya. First trouble was that no one of them had visited Ludruk theater for the last two years. I started to think the worst: No more theater, no more shows, impossible to do the photos. And was kind of like this, when the first night we went to the theater, was close. I was really disappointed.

We asked the neighbors of the area and we had the news the company moved to another bigger theater, so we head to the new theater. When we arrived four Waria were living there, not the entire group of actors; Mak Yah was the the chief and one of the actors in the show. He let us take a look everywhere and we held an interesting meeting talking about my photography thoughts to do with them. He agreed.

Next day we started to work, we could only worked the days the show was on, that mean Thursday night and Saturday night; the lady boys didn’t live anymore under the stage, I am glad if they had found something better than just a simple matrices in the stage, but I was disappointed because I couldn’t tell anymore their life style in a small cultural community.

During 4 days of show we worked hard to do an essay with 4 parts:

Portraits of the before and after make up of the Waria, in black and white shouted at f1,2 with a 85 mm lens and two strobes plus reflector set of lights.

Before the show preparatives. How the actors make up and the behind the stage activity. Shoot this series with 24 mm, 50 mm, available artificial light plus on speedlight.

My view of the show with a white studio background and a set of 4 strobes.

I was very interested in my subjects and in the show. Ludruk it is an old traditional show who tells daily life stories about love and working activities in a humor way. Why this Ludruk show was acted by she males? The answer comes from far in time. Before, the show and entire theater was going from one village to another, just a couple of shows in one place and then, like the circus now a days, move to another point. To carry all the equipments to build the theater were needed strong hands and as it was a popular entertainment there was no many benefits, so the same people who carrie the staff from one village to another, were the same people who later acted, in conclusion: porters and actors the same, needed of male, stronger than woman to carry all the equipments.

So the show was not a good business, my thoughts about this theme are very particular. Under my opinion, the group of 15 she males actors enjoyed the twice weekly show to feel as real female for two days in a week. A space were they could make up, dress pretty dresses and act like women in public with out the critiques of the average street people. The Ludruk it is not just an old traditional Indonesian show kept by waria, it is also a place where a community fits perfectly being as they are, with out to hide anything.

To end the story I want to talk about Margono. The first days I was taking portraits I saw an old man, sitting in the stage. When I passed by him he sayd “Syaya sakit” (I am ill), I didn’t understand, but I asked him to get a portrait in the small set my assistance and me did. He came slowly, thin as a paper, moving slowly, trying to smile to where the lightings were and I took him three portraits. In the third one he was going to caught but the caught didn’t arrive for 10 seconds. 10 seconds I thought this man was going to died in front of us. Finally he caught.

My assistance Ali Nurdin told me he was going to take Margono to the hospital, usually I don’t act like this, because in all of my trips I see many people who needs help, and how to help everybody? But as Ali told me “As a good muslim I will help the others with out expecting nothing back, and I will help Margono until the end of his days”. I decide to share the expenses with him. We took him to the hospital; the doctor send him to make blood test and x ray, Margono had many siknes: turbeculosis and hepatitis were the more significants. We bought him the pills he needed and we took him again to the doctor with the results. I made a small NGO with my family asking them to help me with just 10 € each to pay the 100 € total  bill from the doctor.

Unfortunately, 5 days after I left the Ludruk theater, Margono, the big drums player of the live music show of Ludruk died.



After a year graduating in Audiovisual Communication Degree from Universidad Complutense of Madrid, he traveled to Gabon in the summer of 2008, where he started to fall in love in documenting the Gabonese’s way of life. As soon as he was back in Spain, he published his photography work in Spanish magazines, Super Foto, which won him many Spanish national photography awards.

In 2009, he traveled again extensively in India and Nepal, documenting stunningly the untouchable cast in India and the Hindu Shadus in different temples in Varanasi, Kathmandu and Kolkata.

In 2010, he undertook his most challenging photographic trip. He traveled across Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi, Nusa Tengara and Papua; documenting many near extinction ancestral tribes. He ended his journey in the Philippines where he successfully documented an award-winning photo essay of the prostitution in Angeles City.

At the end of 2010, he also has traveled to Guatemala with Infacia con Futuro (NGO) working on an assignment about the people who is being helped by this organization.

Next year, 2011, he will be traveling to Ethiopia for a new project with the Tribes of Omo Valley and to document work of Intermon Oxfam in Addis Abeba.

Diego’s works were published extensively in many major magazines; Siete Leguas, Digital Camera, Super Foto, Light Magazine and Photo Creator. He was awarded the International Photo Awards, Luis Ksado photojournalism award, “Fotografia Solidaria ” DKV – Intermon award, XIV Premio Internacional de Fotografía Rafael Ramos García . He is now one of the Getty Image Global Assignment photographers.

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