Meet the photographer who brought Indonesian surfers to the international level. Jason Reposar is now one of Bali’s top fashion photogs.
What are your origins?
I was born and raised in the concrete jungle of Liverpool, England. My parents met at a lunchtime Beatles show. By the age of six, I was trained to be a football player, but was always more interested in art and fashion. I remember a defining moment when I was 12 and watched the Pipeline Masters on TV. I remember thinking, I want to do that. At age 14, my world changed. My parents moved us to San Fernando, California. I started surfing. I surfed at Canoga Park but mostly in Malibu. It became the foundation for the rest of my life.
First I was a graphic designer and that just came to me! I worked at a chic restaurant in Malibu where people from the film industry went. Late one night, these guys came in who always requested me as their waiter; Wim Wenders and David Pincher, both well known in the industry. While waiting for me they started going through my personal journal. They said, ‘You’re an artist! What are you doing working here?’ So I started working for the Generated Digital Post in LA. I was an assistant HTML programmer and worked on interesting projects like Michael Jackson.
In my spare time, I did advertisements for various companies. I got a job for a surfboard ad and the photo was so bad I told the owner I’d do it myself. The day I shot was also a day a lot of major surfers were out. I shot 20 rolls of film and after doing the add, I went to Surfer magazine and ended up with a contract of exclusivity with Transworld Surf; and enjoyed 16 years of travelling, surfing and photography. This was probably the most magical thing that has happened in my life. It is exactly what I was meant to do. I can say this: I am the best scouse surf photographer on the planet! Scouse is a bloke from Liverpool.
How did you make the transition from surfing to fashion?
I was here on a contract to do surf photography. I basically ended up being fired for my preference of shooting Indonesian surfers. After five years of consistently putting local surfers at the forefront and finally helping them gain recognition, I was let go but stayed on in Bali. I met Michaela of Bali Starz and she took me under her wing, giving me jobs in the fashion industry and it grew from there. Now I photograph many known models and personalities.
You have been very successful in surf and fashion photography. What kind of photographer do you see yourself as?
Portrait photography. Five years ago I would have said surf, rock ‘n’ roll and women. My experience has taught me to communicate with people. Before shooting anyone, you have to connect on a deeper level. I know that comes naturally to me. I like being able to capture a person’s essence, their hidden dark side – that side that connects us all as humans, but we hide it. I would love to end up shooting personalities and celebrities to deal with a different personality each day and catch a moment of it.
What is one of the highlights of your career?
The crown jewel of my career so far has got to be when I was promoting Indonesian surfers to an unprecedented international level, and helping them get the financial respect they deserve. When I first arrived in Bali, I was exposed to a different way of life and given a feeling of tranquillity that will be a part of me forever. I am eternally grateful to all those people who made me feel at home when I was most lost, and who showed me a new way of seeing the world. Surfers from all over the world have used Indonesian surfers to gain knowledge and learn where the good conditions are, but they never get the media exposure they deserve. By me only sending pictures of Indonesian surfers, they had to print the images to justify the expense of my contract. When it came time to renegotiate, they did not offer another contract.
What interests you the most?
It has been a long road of discovery to know who I am and what I have to offer, what I’m curious about and what interests me. I am most interested in being a disturber! I am more interested in what people are not telling you; what is behind their personal presentation of themselves, their name, their job, their relationships. When I put them in front of the camera, through the dark shadows and bright lighting, the mood of that moment will reveal the dark side of who they are. It is left up to the interpretation of the viewer. I want to offer images of light and dark; yin and yang, there is no light without darkness. It is the hidden side we all own. It is what makes us human.
What has made you stay in Bali and Indonesia?
I have learned so much about myself in Bali and Indonesia. It is a whole different society which I must respect because I am a guest here. My opinions mean nothing. I’m learning and growing as an individual by being aware of the differences in our eastern and western societies, which enlightens me daily. Here in Bali, I discovered the meaning of karma. That we are all one and all part of each other. Every move we make has an impact. I want to give back to this society which has given me so much. Indonesia is the number one capitol of great surf. It offers every kind of wave you would want to ride or photograph. Whether it is Sumatra, Bali or Sulawesi, I am treated so well and taken to the very best spots for surf. I learn spiritually and mentally from these relationships. That is why I have remained in Bali and in Indonesia.
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