Three young and influential Indonesian photographers discuss various outlooks on photography and how this particular medium shaped their lives.
Reza Riwandi, Satrio Ramadhan and Dian Rockmad Bayutirto (better known as Bayu), share similar stories. Individually, they share a keen eye for capturing beautiful moments. Collectively, they are pure visionaries with thousands of Instagram followers. The young men have enjoyed using the art of photography as their medium since high school, where they started out as mere enthusiasts. Over the years, they have matured to significantly influence the industry. Challenges and competitions arise, but the one thing that remains is their profound love for photography.
I asked the three young artists to share their journey with Indonesia Expat readers: their thoughts on the rise of digital photography, the role photography plays within the local creative industry, and their hopes for the future of Indonesian photography.
Reza Riwanda: Beauty and Change
When I was in kindergarten, my dad taught me how to use a film camera. That was the first time I held a camera in my hands, felt the buttons, heard the sound of the click, and learned the basic functions. It was a distinctly fun experience for me, but I was still too young to realize that photography would eventually become an obsession for me growing up.
I started to seriously channel my passion for photography in high school; when I finally understood it to be the perfect medium for me to celebrate people, and to express my vulnerable side–something I don’t normally share with others. I used my iPhone back then before buying a digital camera. Now I have a mirrorless camera to call my best friend.
Some people have asked me whether I prefer digital over traditional photography. Personally, I find that digital photography is a major breakthrough in our time. Everything is simple and instant and you don’t need to mind things like film rolls, shutter speed or manual lenses. In Indonesia, digital photography has also provoked the local industry to come up with even more photographic services, which is great. But I also don’t think you should underestimate the power of traditional photography in producing beautiful images. The truth is that when it comes to traditional or digital photography, both models allow you to experience much of the world.
For me, photography is like a living creature that works to miraculously translate all the unspoken words into one single image. In a world full of conflicts and terror, photography has really become a safe space for me to remind myself and others that beauty, peace and freedom still exist. I learned this while working for an NGO owned by former Indonesian Ambassador to the United States Dino Patti Djalal, where I was in charge of the visual and media department. Not many people are blessed with the wonderful opportunity to address social issues through doing what they love the most. And in so many ways, I am convinced that photography can really spark positive change.
Satrio Ramadhan: Memory and Photographic Skills
I don’t think I’ve ever completely understood why I fell in love with photography. But I do know what makes a good photo. It is one that will make you stop for a while; you will start thinking about it, question what it is that goes behind the artist’s mind when taking it, how it’s made and can I do the same?
Being a young photographer in Indonesia means having the responsibility to observe and keep up with the changes happening within the creative industry, partly due to technological advancement. The competition does get even tougher with the arrival of new photographers bringing new trends and ideas, but it surely challenges you to constantly offer something new to the table and become better.
What frustrates me the most is when some people easily proclaim themselves as professionals just because they have expensive cameras. Sometimes it can hurt the industry, especially when clients are misled into believing that good photographers simply require fancy cameras and equipment. I hope that in the future Indonesia can learn to not only respect photographic skills but also understand photography as an extraordinary art form.
Most of the time I do fashion photography so I really see it from an aesthetic viewpoint. It’s important for me to capture the emotional and evocative aspects of the subject every time I take a picture. But whether it is fashion, street, war, documentary or even wildlife; photography for me is all about reliving those visual memories that people want to cherish forever. If a person looks at a picture and is immediately taken back to a certain time and place, then you know you’ve done a pretty successful job as a photographer.
Dian Rockmad Bayutirto: Identity and Thinking Process
I didn’t instantly love photography. To be honest, I’ve only begun my photography journey last year and to this day I am still struggling to describe myself as a photographer. However, the idea of embarking on this path came to me when I was working in a similar industry. At first, I was involved in graphic design; it was during my high school days. Yet, I had always been in awe of photography, and I always understood it. Perhaps, it extracted my true creative spirit the same way as graphic design. I was nothing more than a casual observer then.
That changed entirely with the advent of the smartphone and social media technology. By the time I had an Android [phone] and set up my own Instagram account, I realized there was nothing else that could stop me from taking and sharing photos. What I did not see coming was a wealth of opportunity for me to exhibit my work, in exchange for a generous amount of reward. I remember the extreme joy I had over by winning a few Instagram photo contests, which won me a bunch of free stuff: a getaway trip, an iPhone, and a mirrorless camera that I still use today.
I’m still technically a photographer, yet I also devote myself to different kinds of work. I quite enjoy working as a freelance content writer. And with experience in graphic design and radio broadcasting, it is safe to say that I was meant to take up a career in the creative industry. Like similar kinds of work in the creative industry, photography not only allows you to satisfy your artistic side; but also learn to properly plan, manage your time, and make sure you invest your time and energy to prepare. It requires more thought processes than anyone expects.
While I may not be able to provide a definitive explanation to photography, I do know one thing that’s certain. Photography comes from the heart. You should not wait for the next tech invention to help you out. Start with what you have today.