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

17 October, 2023 @ 10:00 am - 12 November, 2023 @ 8:00 pm

Exhibition Background

The photo exhibition “Who Cares? COVID-19 Divides in Southeast Asia” organized by SEA Junction on 17 October – 12 November and displayed at the 3rd Floor’s Curved Wall of the Bangkok Arts and Culture Center (BACC)—documents how the pandemic in Southeast Asia laid bare the entrenched wealth and welfare inequities in society and their diverse implications for the well-being and safety of the various segments of the population as well as the differentiated social protection responses to the crisis.

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 strictlyand at times coercivelyhave had huge and inequitable consequences.

Overall, the regional economy contracted and registered the largest drop since the 1997 Asia crisis, resulting in increasing the precarity of informal workers, women and marginalized groups. Taken aback by the scale of the crisis, societies were challenged with respect to protecting the most vulnerable in their midst. This largely was due to inadequate or non-existent allowances for informal workers and migrants and those officially considered outside of the labour 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. Looking ahead, structural reforms are needed if the profound divides laid bare by the pandemic are to be addressed seriously. 

Photographers from six countries, Edy Susanto for Indonesia, Hasnoor Hussain for Malaysia, Tanwe (pseudonym) for Myanmar, Kimberly dela Cruz for the Philippines, Grace Baey for Singapore, and Sayan Chuenudomsavad for Thailand highlight how pre-existing inequities have resulted in a disproportionately large toll being taken on disadvantaged groups and in greater constraints and reduced protections for these same groups.

During the exhibition, two related events are planned at SEA Junction as follows:

  • 18 October, 5.30-7pm: Photographer Talk on which the photographers will discuss their work during the pandemic.
  • 25 October 5.30-7pm: Book Launch of the Thai language version of the recently published book “Who Cares? COVID-19 Social Protection Response in Southeast Asia” edited by SEA Junction’s founder Rosalia Sciortino, published by Silkworm Books and illustrated with selected exhibition photos. The launch will present a panel focused on the book’s chapter on Thailand and discuss lessons that can be drawn from the COVID-19 social protection response that are of relevance to current policy discussions on elderly welfare and e-wallets aid for the overall population.

The exhibition as well as the books production (both in English and Thai) and the respective launches are part of a regional research project conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021-2022, which was conducted by the Institute for Population and Social Research (IPSR) of Mahidol University with funding from the National Research Council of Thailand (NRCT) under the Integrated Strategic Research Program on Social Sciences: Khon Thai 4.0.

Photographers Talk Participants’ Profiles

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


For more information, please email: info@seajunction.org or phone/wa: +66970024140

NB: SEA Junction events are free, but donation most welcome!


SEA Junction

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.


17 October, 2023 @ 10:00 am
12 November, 2023 @ 8:00 pm
Event Category: