Cephas, Kassian (1845–1912) By Cox, Matt
Cephas was the first indigenous Indonesian photographer who, after training with a European mentor around 1870, was appointed as official photographer to the royal house of Hamengkubuwana in Jogjakarta where he made official portraits and documented festivities. When Cephas first advertized his studio’s services in 1877, he announced himself as an independent businessman and a member of the emerging petit bourgeois who employed his technical skills to establish himself as a modern man. As souvenirs for European tourists and Dutch expatriates returning home, Cephas’s photographs were prone to the commoditization of local scenery and life: subjects were arranged into simulations of daily life, producing a contrived reality of types such as batik makers, card players, woodworkers and Javanese beauties. While his self-portraits established him as a modern photographer, it was Cephas’s photographs of young Javanese women that may have served as models for 20th-century modern artists in their quest to find suitable allegories for an emerging independent nation. Cephas used photography to express a modern identity, forged in negotiation with the feudal past and the colonial project, thereby tracing an arc of modern Indonesian art from the central courts of Java in the 1880s to the pages of bilingual 1920s photographic manuals. Thus, Cephas’s photography may provide the missing link in Indonesian art history between Raden Saleh and Sudjojono.