Andrea Star Reese

Andrea Star Reese
Location: NYC/Seattle/Jakarta
Nationality: United States
Biography:            Andrea Star Reese is documentary photographer based in New York and Jakarta. Ms. Reese received The Lucie Award-Deeper Perspective Photographer of the Year in 2016, the 2014 David Pike Award for Excellence... read on
@AndreaStarReese Mental Illness photojournalism
andrea star reese
May 31, 2021

DISORDER_2011 and ongoing

 The Sixty-five photographs temporarily posted on this website are the result of ten years of work on DISORDER, a documentary photo reportage about abuse against people with psychosocial disabilities in Indonesia and efforts to address Disability Rights and Human Rights:

Since January 14,2011 I have visited and re visited more than 100 government-run and private social care institutions, faith healing centers, psychiatric hospitals and numerous private homes throughout Indonesia. I discover new places, revisit previous places, and plan a focus of special interest.

Being a part of the catalyst that will deliver informed choice, a full spectrum of care options, individual enfranchisement and self determination to persons with a mental health condition is my purpose.
My initiative is very simply to operate as a vehicle for factual information. I work on the frontlines of a war against stigma, a struggle for disability rights and human rights. I deliver my dispatches to governments, policy makers, donor agencies, rights organizations, local/international audiences, and ordinary people who have no idea of what is occurring.
Despite long held stigma, men and women allow me to photograph because they want people to know what is happening, and to see what they must tolerate. Their participation is a fight for life and liberation, recognition and respect.

For me, the most important part of this work is not the photography. I report from a neurological battleground. So maybe the critical part of that work is to ask/beg/urge countless men/women/children to survive, to value living, and to hold onto hope amidst the unspeakable evidence of their circumstance while they battle and manage a mental disease that could be successfully treated. I get a few hours to accomplish that armed with respect, focus, attention, bits of conversation, and vital information. Then I leave carrying their message and report what I have discovered.

Thousands of mentally ill people are locked away in rooms, cells, cages, or animal sheds, restrained in chains or wooden stocks. Many are left naked, hungry, with no ability to wash, and vulnerable to malnutrition, assault, and rape. In Indonesia, this form of abusive “treatment” is called pasung. It is often imposed on individuals of any age who exhibit behaviors, attitudes, or emotional expression that are atypical. Pasung can be enforced for weeks, months, or even years. Although pasung has been banned by the government since 1977, it continues to be a traditional response to mental conditions throughout Indonesia. Yeni Rosa Damayanti, head of Perhimpunan Jiwa Sehat-Indonesian Mental Health Association, in Jakarta, (January, 2016) told me, “You can throw a stone anywhere in Java and you will hit someone in pasung. That’s how prevalent it is.” She added “People with a mental health problem are at the bottom of the chain/cycle of violence that results in human rights abuses….the difference between having access to service and no access at all is to be forced to live in hell. It is between living and not living.”

            Although pasung still occurs in several institutions and healing centers, it often takes place at home. It is imposed by family members who cannot afford a higher level of care, have no support system, cannot or do not know how to access services, fear medications, worry about addiction, or most significantly, want to avoid the stigma linked to a diagnosis of mental illness. Most commonly, they feel pasung is a necessary step to protect the family, community, as well as the nonconforming individual.

In 2016 Human Rights Watch reported that Indonesia is estimated to have over 19 million people with psychosocial disabilities. Indonesia has about 48 mental health institutions and roughly 700 psychiatrists. More than half of the psychiatric hospitals are in four of the country’s 34 provinces, while eight provinces have no psychiatric hospitals at all. Of Indonesia’s psychiatrists, half are based in Java, and half of them practice in Jakarta. Needed prescriptions can be unavailable for months due to shortages. Patient compliance and lack of family support can also lead to treatment failure. To further complicate efforts for reform the Ministry of Health oversees mental hospitals while shelters for the mentally ill are the responsibility of the Ministry of Social Affairs

Faith healers and traditional healers remain a preferred first choice for care. Most concerning is the continuing belief that one’s mental illness stems from a lack of faith or sinful behavior, caused by mysticism, spells, or by possession. 

Inadequate access to the medications and treatments commonly available throughout much of the world has devastating consequences. Many people have no idea that their mental condition can improve, they can be better and with opportunity, they can live their dream.

I operate according to Journalism ethics and standard practices under National Press Photographers Association. (NPPA) and   International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)

In 2013 Human Rights Watch contacted me after seeing my photographs which led to an investigation and world wide exposure. On March 21, 2016 Human Rights Watch released their Report: "LIVING IN HELL", followed in 2018 by "INDONESIA: Shackling Reduced But Persists"; and in 2020 by "People with Mental Health Conditions Living in Chains". Along with my Fixer Gunawan, also a video cameraman, I am honored to have worked with him as a team on visual content for these reports.

Iin Purwanti Cox
Researcher/Consultant, formerly with Yayasan Lembaga Bantuan Hakum Indonesia-Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation

Consultants: Yeni Rosa Diamanti,Perhimpunan Jiwa Sehat-Indonesia Mental Health Association; Dr. Pandu Setiawan, Former Head of Directorate General of Mental Health, Department of Health, Jaringan Rehabilitasi Psikososial-Diaabled People’s Association; Dr. Irmansyah, Former Head of Directorate General of Mental Health, Department of Health, Bogor Mental Hospital; Dr. Harvita Diatri, Department of Psychiatry, University of Indonesia, Cipto Hospital; Dr. Yunier Sunarko, RSJ Dr Radjiman Wediodiningrat State Mental Hospital; Bagus Utomo, Ketua Komunitas Peduli Skizofrenia Indonesia; others


Also by Andrea Star Reese —


Pasung: The Agony of Chains

By Andrea Star Reese — Honored to be published in Witness Magazine by Vision Project. Thank you Richard Falco and Loretta Oleck...
Events News

Innovation and Inequality a new photo series for UNDP

By Andrea Star Reese — A new photography series, Innovation & Inequality, supported by the United Nations Development..

Vision Project proudly announces a new online gallery by ANDREA STAR REESE Disorder

By Andrea Star Reese — Thank you to Richard Falco and Vision Project for bringing attention to Indonesians with psychosocial..

Honored to be selected for AP33

By Andrea Star Reese — Https:// AP33 winng images photographed or published during the past year..

Congrats to the winners of the Fifth Edition of the Jacob Riis Documentary Award.

By Andrea Star Reese — Winner: Fausto Podavini_for his series: MiRelLa Runner Up: Mary Calvert_for her series: Missing in Action..

Honored that the Vice Governor of East Java is using my photo to promote his anti-shackling campaign 2017

By Andrea Star Reese —
Awards News

LUCIE AWARD : Deeper Perspective Photographer of the Year

By Andrea Star Reese — I am deeply grateful for the honor of this recognition. THE LUCIE AWARDS from Carnegie Hall: Announcing..
Awards News

Honored to be recipient of The Berlin Foto Biennale Documentary Award: Best Portfolio on Human Rights


Honored to be a reciprient of the Julia Margaret Cameron Award for DISORDER and URBAN CAVE

By Andrea Star Reese — ..

Indonesia's Health Minister takes action after release of Human Rights Watch report on shackling

By Andrea Star Reese — #Indonesia’s health min @NilaMoeloek committing to provide mental health meds in health centers..

VICE on Human Rights Watch Report, photographs by Andrea Star Reese

By Andrea Star Reese — ‘Pasung’ Is the Indonesian Practice of Shackling and Imprisoning the Mentally Ill..

Disorder on Al Jazeera's AJ+ and multiple reports on CNN

By Andrea Star Reese — The Human Right's Watch report on shacking in Indonesia was released in Jakarta on March 21. The video, shot..

Images from the series: Disorder part of CNN report on Human Rights Watch campaign against shackling

By Andrea Star Reese — http:// Amazing opportunity to be..

Disorder Images in Human Rights Watch Report

By Andrea Star Reese


By Andrea Star Reese — Just updated images from Disorder, a five year series on men and women with psychosocial disibilities in..
Exhibitions News

Exhibiting at Musee de l'Elysee

By Andrea Star Reese — Honored to have Pauline Martin and Musee de l'Elysee, Lausanne include photographs from my series Urban Cave..


By Andrea Star Reese —  J oin Alison Morley and me, Andrea Star Reese at the book launch of Urban Cave this Wednesday ,..


By Andrea Star Reese — Please join me and FotoEvidence this Thursday: Book signing of Urban Cave by Andrea Star Reese at Visa Pour..

Urban Cave_book section Polka magazine

By Andrea Star Reese — Thank you @polkamagazine for mentioning photobook Urban Cave in the livres section of the brilliant..

The Urban Cave Book Kickstarter Campaign

By Andrea Star Reese — BREAKING NEWS_Andrea Star Reese launches camptain in partnership with FotoEvidence to publish her seven..

BREAKING NEWS_Andrea Star Reese

By Andrea Star Reese — I am excited to announce my partnership with FotoEvidence to publish a photobook of my seven year project..
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