Inspirations >> Photos & People

Ibu Rusidah: My Disability Brings out the Best in Me


Ibu Rusidah lost her arms at the age of 12, studied photography, became a recognised photographer, raised a family and owns a mini studio. Let's get to know her story in the below interview.

disabled photographer in indonesia Ibu Rusidah

Ibu Rusidah in action during the Canon PhotoMarathon Indonesia in Jogyakarta, November 2017

Can you share a bit of your background?
I was born in 1968 in Purworejo, Java, Indonesia. After losing my hands in an accident, I studied photography at Prof. Dr. Soeharso Solo Rehabilitation Centre.

What made you interested in photography?
I wanted to take up sewing, then I met a disabled friend at he Rehabilitation Centre who had an income by taking photos. He took many beautiful photos for a living, which made me switch interest.

Tell about about this disabled friend.
His name is  Mr Tukijo. I met him during my time at the Rehabilitation Centre. Despite only having one arm, he was a roaming photographer and he captured the most beautiful photos. His story inspired me to learn about photography.

At the beginning, which genre interested you most?
My goal at first was to become a roaming photographer. Back then, my teacher urged me to go around to take photos of kids wearing uniforms, from school uniforms to police uniform costumes. So I walked around my village or nearby villages to do this.

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Ibu Rusidah showing her photos with fellow photographers during the Canon PhotoMarathon Indonesia (November 2017)

Did you realise your dream immediately after your photography course?
No, I took two years to adjust to real-life situations, and to gain confidence.

Tell us about the beginning.
As a photographer with no hands, I worked extra hard to gain people’s trust. Plus I did not own a camera! I actually borrowed one from the Rehabilitation Centre. 

How do you get people to trust your ability?
At a music event, I photographed audience members. Later, I gave them my pictures to show my ability, despite my disability. I also created an album to showcase my photos of my nephew, to sell my service i.e. photography and home delivery of with payment on delivery. My efforts have worked because Indonesia’s former First Lady Ani Yudhoyono invited me to attend the opening of her exhibition in Jakarta.

disabled photographers in indonesia
 disabled photographers in indonesia

Wedding photos taken by Ibu Rusidah

How long did it take to convince people of your skills?

In 1994, I became the official photographer for a local women’s association in Puworejo. I did event coverage for them, for a small gatherings to a bigger events. From the photos, they could see that I can take great photos, hence they trusted me to become their official photographer. The women's associaton helped me to get a new camera and I ended up using this camera to take wedding photos and local festivities.

disabled photographer in indonesia

How far did you walk as a roaming photographer?
I walked village to village, covering 4-5 kilometres a day.

What keeps you going?
I want to live independently and earn my own money.

What is your biggest hurdle in photography? How do you overcome it?
I learned all my photography skills with a film camera. With digital photography, I learn from my son. I am older now, so it is harder to absorb so much new knowledge.

What was the most difficult thing for you to learn?
With old film cameras, even slight movement caused blurriness. So the challenge was to hold the camera firmly.

disabled photographer in indonesia

How do you handle and face that problem?
Keep on trying, keep on studying, keep on learning and practicing with the camera every day. My teacher pushed me to cover the full process of big Javanese weddings, which lasted for a few days. At the end, the results were very good.  
How long have you been in photography?

I have been in this field for 23 years.

You also run a mini studio. Tell us about it.
In 2010, PT Datascrip (Mdm Merry Harun) set up my mini studio. They provided a laptop, camera, simple studio equipment, printer, tripod and background screen.

disabled photographer in indonesia

Ibu Rusidah seen in the above photo with her family as well as the team from PT Datascrip

How do you balance your time as a homemaker and photographer?

I start work at the studio after my household chores (cooking, prepping kids for school, etc). Event photography is fine if it does not interfere with domestic duties. 

After so many years in this field, what skills do you still need to polish? 
I have so much to learn, especially with digital camera where everything is foreign to me. Though I use a digital camera, everything is based on gut feel and what I have learnt with film cameras. A full understanding of digital photography is what I need!

Nowadays people are using smartphones to take photos, is this affecting your business?
Yes, it does. So I bring a SELPHY compact printer. At a recent fashion event, I offered participants and attendees to  print on the spot, and it took less than 5 minutes to print each photo.

What are you expecting from the recent media coverage of you?
My hope is that disabled friends who aspire to be photographers will not be afraid of competition. There so many friends who excel in this field, some are famous. Today at Canon PhotoMarathon, the many deaf and mute participants make me happy.

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Your son is participating in Canon PhotoMarathon. Was he inspired by you?
Perhaps! Actually, he has participated since 2010, when he had his own digital camera. He wants to be a wedding photographer.

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Ibu Rusidah with her son, Nugroho

What are your plans for the next 5 years?
I want to travel, to take photos in other countries.

Get inspired with our next interview with "Bang Dzoel" - a photographer who defeat his disabilities to pursue photography professionally.

This interview took place at Canon PhotoMarathon 2017 in Jogyakarta, Indonesia on 12 November 2017.

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