Fire in the Fields: Java, Indonesia
29 January, 2019
An island that speaks in three tongues can be disorientating for those visiting. I see a blue haze of smoke in a field so green and feel like I am hypnotised. I haven't resorted to smoke signalling as a means of communication, no. Rice paddy fields are abundant here and burning them is a common agricultural tradition. Carried out in mountainous regions, the process of clearing and burning forestland while using the wood ash as natural fertiliser is the cause of the billowing smoke.
It's possible to grow at least four crops of rice a year in Java. Rain is plentiful - exceeding 5000mm annually - making Indonesia the third-largest producer of rice in the world. The process of planting, harvesting and threshing the rice is slow; farming traditions date back to the early Bronze Age and local farmers complete each stage of the crop cycle by hand. Bent backs, rough hands and sunburnt skin. The determination and altered frames of farm workers emphasise the laborious nature of their work, which I tried to capture in this series.