Gregor Krause (1883-1959)

 

            The author of this exhibition's photographs, the German physician Gregor Krause, arrived in Bali six years after the Dutch final conquest of the island. Born in 1883 in the then Prussian city of Insterburg (now in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad), Krause became a young medical officer enlisted in the Dutch East Indies Company's army, and was initially assigned to the adjacent island of Java. On August 26th, 1912, Krause was transferred to the rural town of Bangli, in the island of Bali, where he was assigned the responsibility of maintaining and preserving not only the health of the colony's soldiers and administrative/military officials, but that of the local inhabitants as well, who had not yet developed modern medical care.

 

            Krause performed his duties with enthusiasm and humanitarian spirit, attending to more than ten thousand patients during the eighteen months spent working and travelling throughout the island. During this first stay in Bali, the German doctor, fascinated by the local culture and people, immortalized and collected with a little camera over four thousand photos of men, women, villages, Hindu temples, and ceremonies, as well as scenes from the island population's daily lives. When transferred back to Java in 1914, Gregor Krause fell in love with a Dutch woman, Anna Margaretha Wilhelmina Bachmann, whom he married in 1915, just prior to his resignation with the army in favour of a position with the colonial civil service.

            Krause was arrested in South Africa by the British forces as a German national on a stop during his return journey to Europe, ravaged by the horrors of the first World War. He was then sentenced, in 1916, to serve a sentence several months long in a military prison camp near the city of London. Once released and deported to the neutral Netherlands, he was finally reunited with his wife and soon obtained his medical practice licence as well as his Dutch citizenship. Four years later, in 1920, the first edition of his soon-to-be classic book on Bali was published in Germany: it included a selection of 400 black and white photographs, complemented by the author's written reports from the nicknamed “Island of the Gods”. That same year, Gregor Krause returned to South-East Asia, his greatest passion, to work for an oil company in Balikpapan, Dutch Borneo, where he remained until 1929, also continuing his work as an amateur photographer and anthropologist. From 1930 onwards, after adopting two baby girls of Chinese ethnicity, he commenced travelling with his family throughout the East Indies, spending periods of both work and study between the islands of Java and Sumatra, only to return to Bali in the early 1940s.

            Compelled, by the explosion of World War II in the East, to leave the island, the Krauses temporarily relocated to Medan (Sumatra) where they were captured by the Japanese forces' sudden invasion. Detained as citizens of a hostile country, the Netherlands, Gregor Krause and the rest of his family were forced to spend two years of hardship in a Japanese internment camp. As a physical and a voluntary cleaning worker, Krause managed to survive and spare himself and his family from the hardest of suffering, and even managed to learn the Chinese language and Culture.

            Following his liberation in 1945, Krause moved to Australia where he resided for two years prior to his return to the Netherlands, where he retired to a modest country house in order to the pursuance of his studies of photography, the Chinese and Indonesian cultures, and Asian religions and religious practices.

            Krause died in Dalfsen, the Netherlands, in 1959.

 

Written By: Giovanni Porta

Edited By: Ruben Rosenberg Colorni