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Photo Exhibition “Who Cares? COVID-19 Divides in Southeast Asia”

June 13 @ 10:00 am - July 16 @ 8:00 pm

In mainland Southeast Asia, the pandemic´s human toll initially was limited compared to that in peninsular Southeast Asia and to global figures. However, the image of a region largely unscathed by COVID-19 began to change by the end of 2020, when new strains of the virus emerged. By the middle of 2021, the Delta variant had turned Southeast Asia into a global center of the pandemic. The health and socioeconomic damage which COVID-19 inflicted on the countries of this region, together with the containment measures which they began to apply more strictly—and at times coercively—have had huge and unfair consequences.

Overall, the regional economy contracted and registered the largest drop since the 1997 Asia financial crisis, resulting in increased precarity of informal workers, women and marginalized groups. Taken aback by the scale of the crisis, societies were challenged to protect the most vulnerable in their midst. This largely because of inadequate or non-existent assistance schemes for informal workers and migrants and those officially considered outside of the labor market, including people with disabilities and the elderly. As government support was far from sufficient and often inequitably distributed, individuals, communities and non-governmental and non-profit organizations stepped in to try to fill these gaps by distributing food and aid as well as providing health services, family care and funeral services to those most in need.

Photographers from six countries—Edy Susanto for Indonesia, Hasnoor Hussain for Malaysia, Ta Mwe for Myanmar, Kimberly dela Cruz for the Philippines, Grace Baey for Singapore, and Sayan Chuenudomsavad for Thailand—highlight the pandemic’s disproportionate health and economic impacts on disadvantaged people, which still can be felt to this day. The entrenched wealth and welfare inequities laid bare by the pandemic demand structural reforms if we are to foster more just societies.

The exhibition, curated by Sayan Chuenudomsavad and Rosalia Sciortino for SEA Junction, was first exhibited at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) on 17 October to 5 November attracting wide public attention. With the exception of Myanmar, selected photos from the countries’ documentation also served to illustrate the book, “Who Cares? COVID-19 Social Protection Response in Southeast Asia”, edited by Rosalia Sciortino and published by Silkworm Books. The exhibition as well as the book´s production (both in English and Thai) and respective launches, are part of a regional research project carried out during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021-2022. This was conducted by the Institute for Population and Social Research (IPSR) of Mahidol University in collaboration with SEA Junction and funded by the National Research Council of Thailand (NRCT) under the Integrated Strategic Research Program on Social Sciences: Khon Thai 4.0.


Edy Susanto is a documentary photographer born in Jakarta. He completed a special training on photo journalism at Antara Journalistic Photo Gallery in 2000 and has attended a number of training and workshop in photography, including the one in which he was selected to join a photography workshop mentored by German photographer winning in a World Press Photo Contest, Peter Bialobrezky. See https://www.edy-susanto.com/.

Grace Baey is a photographer and filmmaker based in Singapore. Trained as a human geographer, she has a keen eye and sensitivity for crafting human-interest stories that are authentic, emotional and thoughtful. She’s especially interested in issues of migration and mobility, gender, identity, and place. Her personal work focuses on queer and gender identity in Southeast Asia. Member of @womenphotograph @diversifyphoto @authoritycollective @equallens. See further www.gracebaey.com

Hasnoor Hussain picked up the camera in his early 20s and has been a photographer ever since. In March 2017, he was among the earliest staff starting a portal The Malaysia Insight and continuing reporting in visual form; still picture and video. He is currently photographer at Reuters Malaysia. See http://www.hasnoorhussain.com/.

Kimberly dela Cruz is an independent photographer based in Manila. While studying Journalism, she became an activist and started carrying a camera in protests. She began her career as a photo correspondent for the Philippine Daily Inquirer in 2013 before transitioning to documentary photography and working for different publications. See https://www.kimberlydelacruz.com/.

Sayan Chuenudomsavad has been working as a photojournalist for several years, reporting and taking photos on any rising challenges of development, of the environment, and of any social changes which take place in the Mekong region. Diverse and vibrant, his images capture everyday people living alongside the challenges of development, climate change and social changes in the region. See https://sayanchuenudomsavad.wordpress.com/.

Ta Mwe is a Burmese documentary photographer with experience covering a wide range of political and social stories and events throughout Myanmar. After many years working for national and international publications and organizations as a photographer, videographer and video editor, Ta Mwe’s recent work has focused on analogue still photography, covering first the COVID-19 crisis and then the country’s anti-coup protests. Due to the political situation in Myanmar the name Ta Mwe is an alias and this bio has been heavily redacted to remove any identifying information. See further https://tamwe.link


SEA Junction, established under the Thai non-profit organization Foundation for Southeast Asia Studies (ForSEA), aims to foster understanding and appreciation of Southeast Asia in all its socio-cultural dimensions, from arts and lifestyles to economy and development. Conveniently located at Room 407-8 of the Bangkok Arts and Culture Center or BACC (across MBK, BTS National Stadium), SEA Junction facilitates public access to knowledge resources and exchanges among students, practitioners and Southeast Asia lovers. For more information, see www.seajunction.org, join the Facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/groups/1693058870976440/ and follow us on Twitter and Instagram @seajunction

Institute for Population and Social Research (IPSR), Mahidol University

IPSR was established in 1971 and has become one of Asia’s premier population research and training hubs. The Institute conducts research and provides training in population, sexual and reproductive health and development with a focus on Thailand and on neighbouring countries in Southeast Asia, with the ultimate goal of improving the quality of life for all. For more information, see https://ipsr.mahidol.ac.th.

Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) has been providing the City of Bangkok with an art meeting place for the past 15 years, reaching out to people with its highly varied exhibitions, and diverse arts and educational programming. The BACC sees further needs for making available more of such art space in the city other than the one centrally located. Now teaming up with Seacon Square, such venture is happening: a space for dialogue between artists and audiences and communities all round, promoting art to become part of everyday life for people of all generations, in this case specifically for the people living on the eastern side of Bangkok. BACC pop-up is located at MunMun Art Destination (MMAD) 2nd and 3rd floor, Seacon Square, Srinakarin. For more information, see https://en.bacc.or.th/.


June 13 @ 10:00 am
July 16 @ 8:00 pm
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