Ratu Boko Palace Dancers & Can Paying Visitors Photograph?


Any visitor to Jogjakarta knows that must see attractions in the region are Borobudur & Prambanan Temples.  But sadly most visitors never know that they should visit Prambanan’s neighbor—Rato Boko’s Palace ruins.

Rato Boko Palace park stands on a plateau overlooking Jogjakarta.  Ancient king Boko definitely had an eye for the best real estate around.  Sunset is the time of choice to visit Ratu Boko's Palace.


When we recently visited we were surprised to find that a Javanese dance troupe was practicing on the face of the Burning Temple & Holy Well ruins.  


Normally I would talk with people before photographing them, but this troupe was in the middle of their routine & didn't prefer to be interrupted.  But several people were freely photographing the dance troupe.

So, I joined in capturing images of this picturesque combination—an ancient Javanese palace ruin adorned by Indonesians engaging in modern—but Javanese-styled—dance, at sunset.

It was a terrific opportunity, until things got a bit interesting.  A member of the dance troupe prohibited me from taking any more photographs of the dancers on the ruins.  It's not clear why he approached me as there were other visitors still photographing the troupe.

I politely told him that when we paid our entry fee no one informed us that there was a closed event & that we'd be limited in photographing.  Yet, I conveyed that I would comply with his request & ceased shooting the dancers & the ruins.

Before we left Ratu Boko Palace park I met the most senior park official present & asked him if he had given authority to the dancers to forbid other visitors to photograph.  I related what had happened.  He said that, “No, the park never really gave them that authority to prohibit photographs, but you should have taken images that did not include them.”  I pointed out that the dance troupe covered one of the main ruins, & that no one could photograph any part of that ruin without including dancers in the photograph. 

The reason I came to Ratu Boko was to scout it out for a photography tour.  I definitely don’t want to bring paying photographer clients here & then be told that we can’t shoot the ruins because someone who's allergic to photography happens to be standing on them.

More serious cases have been reported in the News Photographer magazine—and the American NPPA constantly has to remind people that if you’re in a public place in the US, then you cannot legally prohibit someone from taking your photograph.  By contrast Indonesia seems to have no such law, so, things are applied arbitrarily. 

I love Ratu Boko Palace—especially at sunset.  But sadly, I probably will not be bringing a photogaphy tour to this site as the palace park officials can’t seem to make a clear decision—are paying visitors authorized to freely photograph?  Or, can one group of park visitors cover a major part of the ruins & then forbid other paying visitors to photograph that ruin?

Am I wrong?  Maybe.  I’m willing to consider the possibility.  Or have you been in situations where someone forbid your photography?  Tell me what you think!