During the nineteenth century the art of photography in the Netherlands Indies, now Indonesia, was mainly in European hands. Gradually, members of other ethnic groups moved into the field. Among indigenous ethnic groups, the pioneer was the Javanese Kassian Cephas (1845-1912). From the early 1870s Kassian Cephas was photographer to the court of the Sultans of Yogyakarta. As such he was responsible for many portraits of the royal family, in particular during the reign of Sultan Hamengkubuwana VII. Besides portraits of the royal family, Kassian Cephas documented theatrical performances and ceremonies at court.
Apart from a biography of Kassian Cephas and his son and successor Sem Cephas (1870-1918), this book offers a selection of 98 pictures of the exquisite work of these photographers, drawn mainly from the photographic collection of the Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde (KITLV). This selection introduces the reader to a world of royal dignity, gracious dancers, shadowy town views, impressive temple ruins and the mysterious Indian Ocean coast.