HEART OF THE CITY by Darek Meyer


by Darek Meyer

My last post – the one about Harinezumi – was kind of wink. I`m not a gear person, at least not anymore. I have to admit, there is new camera in my bag now, but I`ll leave the story for next time. Of course, we all need cameras for photography. Some of us are aiming at the latest gadgets; some stick to their favourite cam, and use till it can`t take any pictures.

One thing which I`ve wrote time ago, about photographs which my father took, is still true for me. Photographs are memories. I take them as memories of people and events, I take them also as memories of what I felt this particular time. And I`m not alone with this approach. You can find it all on http://where-were-we.com

What you will see below, the pictures and how they look, is just one of these stories. For over two years I was frequently coming to Jakarta. Usually for couple of days a week; office work, and some meetings with business partners.
During that time, I was living in a hotel in Jakarta city centre. It is located close to the office, but with Jakarta traffic, it means on average half an hour by taxi. Or, twelve minutes walk.



Many of hotel guests will never use the latter option. These 12 minutes can be very challenging for people, who have never seen Kampong (village), which is located in between. Some could be afraid, some could not send the smell, jump over puddles with unidentified liquids, or being continuously alert to avoid motorbikes.

I took the chance of walking, as it was much faster option. With time, I also started to bring my cameras with me, compacts ones. I have witnessed daily life of people from Kampong in Jakarta centre, especially in the mornings and afternoons. Some walks there, instead of having lunch, also brought additional views. I have watched people making their food, fighting flood, selling small koi, kids growing, cat families ruling the street. And for all of them, and for the only one dog which lives there, I will always be a stranger.



Attached is just a brief intro to the series. I have made first selection for my page, and you can find it here:


One can say, this material is not coherent. It is not meant to be. As I have mentioned, different compact cameras were used. I have developed these pictures almost immediately after taking them. And now, I have just adjusted the size to fit web layout. Some are blurred, some come from my „extreme hard contrast” time. Some I took in a rush, some when carrying travel bag with me, or at least umbrella. I think that altering them now, would change the way they were meant to look like the first time. So, no, I`ll not touch them. It is not the end of „Heart of the city” series. My library has more than 3,000 pictures. Soon, as I find bit more of spare time, I will add more.





In such moments, hard to say “I hope you enjoy the story”, as this is more personal take than other things I did with my photography. But if I receive even one message, that someone is waiting for continuation of this series, this would mean a lot to me.

Best regards
Darek Meyer


  1. I’m from Indonesia, the main reason I took the cab for short distance in Jakarta is because the hot and very polluted air. In the summer it can reach 40d Celsius, very rarely below 34d Celsius so you’ll get sweat all over.
    Note from me, you’ll see fewer Kampong in Jakarta in the future, most of them are illegal especially “Kampong” near the river, built on preserved land or the developer take it over to build new apartment or CBD. Your photos will likely more valuable in the future.

  2. Hello. Very nice shots. It is a coincidence that I just came back from Indonesia last week because I attended a friend’s wedding. Luckily I was able to go a few hours and take some photos of Jakarta’s Chinatown. I frequent Indonesia but all for work. If you’re interested, pictures are here https://flic.kr/s/aHskzLNP8T. It is place where people are very friendly. Colorful place in my opinion.

    • Ahh Luc, you helped me there!

      “Hutongs”. I’ve been searching for that word for a long time. Instead I used the word “kampong” (being Dutch, Indonesia, all that), but now I know better.

      I was in Beijing in November 1998 for a congress (trusty FM2n, 35mm/f2.0, in hand, rolls of 200ASA colour negative), and took every free moment to walk out of the WTC hotel and wander around. Just meter off the sidewalk (18% grey), prefocus, carry on on from there.

      The hutongs were still there, right in the centre of the city, skyscrapers in the process of erection next to them. Not many months later they were torn down to make place for even more skyscrapers, the people that lived there carted out to tenement buildings on the outskirts of that very much air polluted city.

      Amazing experience. Most of the negatives got lost somewhere unfortunately.

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