After reading Jane Levy Reed’s book Toward Independence: A Century of Indonesia Photographed, I became particularly interested in Kassian Cephas. In a way, he was the first photographer of Yogyakarta, the first native photographer of the city, and the first commissioned by the Sultan to photograph official events of the kraton.
Born of mixed heritage – a Dutch father and a Javanese mother – Kassian Cephas was given a telling name. Kassian (Kasihan or Kasyian) typically means pitiable, but can also translate as beloved or precious. Cephas is a biblical name, Aramaic for Peter. It’s claimed he was the first baptized baby born in Central Java. He was adopted by his natural father (rare for the time, as typically Dutchmen wouldn’t acknowledge the babies born to their Indonesian mistresses).
Ultimately, he was trained in photography by Isidore Van Kinsbergen, an important photography of the Dutch colonial enterprise.
Cephas maintain a unique position in the society, fluent in both both Dutch and Javanese, he was able to keep a hand in both cultures.