Rebel Riders, my project about Indonesian so-called extreme vespa community has just been published in Silkwinds, Silk Air Inflight Magazine, June 2018. It includes some new images that I just shoot and developed recently.
Unexpected at best, my on-going project 'Rebel Riders' has been awarded third prize in Story Portrait category of Istanbul Photo Awards 2018. The series was originally started when I was participating in Southeast Asian Photography Masterclass, a program initiated by Obscura Photo Festival in 2016 and supervised by Jorg Bruggemann and Tobias Kruse from the renowned Ostkreuz Photo Agency. Never been happier!
Below are some images from the series.
See the complete list of winners here.
First post for 2018: publication from an assignment for 11 FREUNDE following Persija's ultras Curva Nord's bus journey from Jakarta to Solo during the Indonesian Derby: Persija vs Persib Bandung. While the match didn't live up to expectation, the trip did, especially after the bus I boarded were attacked on the highway by Persib's fans :D
Below are the 14 pages layout of the published story. Will post the outtakes a bit later.
Client: 11 Freunde
Assigning Editor: Kai Senf
Writer: Andreas Bock
This week marks the tenth years anniversary of the massive Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. So I did my best by compiling the photographs that I took on two recent trips to Aceh, the region which hit the worst by the tsunami (more than 130,000 recorded death), into an e-photobook. Looking at the scale of the disaster, I feel the urge to tell the story of how everything goes there nowadays. And the good thing about this e-photobook it is free. You can get it by clicking the cover page image below or later if you like, you can download it as PDF as well.
Dedicated for the people of Aceh.
Last night, as me and a friend were driving down a crossroad in Padang, we saw dozens of men gathered at the roadside. They shouted out loud indicating a trouble. My Indonesian curiosity led me to park my car at a distance. Before long, I was there among them, sneaked in just to find a man, without his shirt, sprawling and begging for his life on the road. "It's an amok" I said to my friend. He nodded.
"The times when we have to deal with our own anger, we often show our most honest but barbaric features."
The word "amok" derived from a remark in Bahasa "amuk", which literally means a state of fury. But more to an uncontrollable form of it. Psychiatrist would be agree to address this state often occured towards a patient with
. Some people may find it's quite intriguing of how could an English word (by spelling) absorbed it from Bahasa identically. Most possible that was because they were unable to find a similar context within their society.
Looking back at history, there were enough account from the Dutch colony era, where the imperialist got used to see the native Indonesians doing the amok. If somebody got caught of stealing or involved in social distruption, then he is in a great risk, great danger. Even so, the act of amok actually wasn't only originated in Malay culture. It's no secret this also happened in many part of the worlds including in Europe.
Back to the man who's begging for his life, he was accused of stealing a bird. Indeed, a bird. He ran into trouble when he and his friend failed attempt came into light by the resident of (how unlucky he was) an Indonesian Armies residential complex. This is smelled not like a good place to steal. He fell from his motorcycle and got punches galore by a horde of amok's fans. His friend was lucky enough to escape the crowd.
The times when we have to deal with our own anger, whatever the causes, we often show our most honest but barbaric features. While the unlucky guy laid helpless, some people still manage to kick him hard. I also saw a muscular man stomped him on the face which likely broke his jaw. We did try to stop, but this step often as dilemmatic as we were hushed. There's always risk of those violent behavior would turn towards us in no time.
A sad, tragic, embarassing, but true post for a weekend.
After more than a month without any posts, this one will be quite long (I'm not so sure whether the content is important or not). It's true that I've been quite busy lately with all the travels, pictures editing, and the writings. But near the end of this year; of our raged year; of our year where we witnessed tsunami in Japan; of our year with disastrous global economic situation which seems leads to nowhere; of our year with massive riot over The Middle East and North Africa; of our years where Ghadaffy and Kim Jong-Il or even Steve Jobs no longer in charge: I feel that I need to reassess myself, what I did and still manage to do this year. So I made a sort of list mixed between my travel, editorial assignment, and any other experiences. Here they are:
1. Moving to Jakarta
As most of you already knew, I based myself in Jakarta since last March. My impression of the city remains the same. It's big, ugly, infested with traffic congestion, which made it extremely boring for staying. However, this is one of the only few better place in Indonesia if I really want to expect more from my photography. So I started commissioned mostly to shoot portraits. As opposed to my earlier thought, this kind of photography is somehow really insightful. It helped me to broaden my view while it also put my communicating skill to the next level. I uploaded some of those works here.
2. Visiting China
I finally visited China, I mean small fraction of it. Being invited by the organizer of Humanity Photo Award, I never thought that I would ever won that Grand Prize. It's also because when I saw the contest's entries, I was looking at some of the best photographs from around the world. So I wasn't expecting much. Basically being in China would be enough. Apart from the ceremonies of the contest, the organizer also arranged the trip for us the winner and nominee. The 4 days trip was somehow frustrating, but now, when I look back, espceally when I'm looking what I am having in my harddrive, it was a relief. There are probably some pictures we couldn't ever made without the help of the organizer.
I then extended my stay to almost a month. I traveled for a while to see if China has something more to offer. My last week in China just got better when my mother finally joined me in Chengdu. We traveled together ever since. One good question crossed my mind: when did the last time you travel with your parents? My answer would be like "ummm, well, I forgot". So the trip with my mother really important to me. It seems that we're just renewing our bond. One thing that I will be really glad to do over and over again. Sadly my father couldn't join us at that time for a funny reason: he is not yet having a passport. WHAT???!!
3. Glimpse of Europe
2011 is seemed to be my year of travel. Last May I was invited to go to Germany by my friend who were getting married. Who can refuse? Even basically this was planned long time ago. And to be honest I really wasn't sure that I really would ever be in Europe or not until the last few weeks.
The story was after the wedding I extended my stay for three weeks longer. From Wernigerode, where the wedding was held, I traveled to Berlin, passed Warsaw in Poland, and finally boarded the train as far as Kruszyniany, near the Belarus border where I found a old wooden Lipka Tatar mosque. The actual plan was to do a more specific project. But I screwed up my own schedule by the means of screwed up research. The project will remain unfinished until my next visit to Poland. But the travel pieces will be getting published this January.
Moreover, from there, I made my way back to Bialystok where my friend Jedrzej (he's a photojournalist too) made me feel like home in his flat. From there I made my way to Krakow to meet Anna, my friend who also the one who urged me to travel few years back. With her and Olek, her boyfriend, we went to Auschwitz (I posted some photos here). The trip wasn't over yet until I made my stop in Wroclaw where I spent some days with the so kind-hearted Gosia. With some 50GB of photos, this one of my biggest trip. It's fruitful
(Thanks a real lot to Yvonne, Knut, Anna, Gosia, Iga, Halim Shahab, Jedrzej, and Ozgun)
4. Singapore by the Street
For photography, I am a long time admirer of India, or China. But Singapore just never made my finger crossed. Well, I was wrong. Now I have to admit that it has its own charm, just like any other place. Sometimes you just need to be there to take a look at yourself. At the end of last month, I was assigned to do the coverage about the grand opening of Transformers: The Ride in Universal Studio Singapore. Well, I was never a big fan of these autobots, so better talk no further about that. Then, I was also assigned to do a travel feature about Singapore (will be published early next year). But the topic required me to explore the place deeper since no one will ever want to hear about Orchad Rd again. In this chance, I mostly explore Singapore by walking combining with public transport. This was where I found that the city is so alive with its street scene. Need some good street photos? O.k, I'll look no further.
5. Ignoring a Decent Publication
WTF? I must be crazy. But that's what I did. If you have followed this blog for a while, then you already knew the story. I'm glad that I ignored them. The past few years we are witnessing the declining numbers of good pubcliation for us photographers. The jobs are rare while the amount of us are more abundant. May be they thought because now everyone can get a new camera then everyone can shoot. Buy this body and buy that lens and they can make good photos. I totally have some difficulties to understand why such a decent publication values our work that low. So that was a big NO. Period.
6. Building a Website
You may say that I am late, and I actually am. I should have built one long ago. For so many reasons photographers need a website, a choice which is not that popular in Indonesia. As far as I know, in other part of the world, like the US and Europe, even a starter in photography have his/her own website to showcase their work. It's an important tool to publicize your works and your vision. I finally made this step last month, at the end of November. I did a quick design, oh sorry, it was modification from a flash portfolio template. I did aired it for two weeks before I decide that I don't like it. The reason is simple: the design. I need a more intuitive and better navigation. Also what's the point of making a website if you are hard to be found. For a starter in WWW world like me, that's absulutely important. Doing the SEO is harder with flash. So, then I made my way back to a more traditional structure without having to sacrifice the look. And it's finished here (you can also click on the picture to get there).
And then there's something that I feel after building a web. It's about quality. When I have my very own website, that's also mean I have to be really careful selecting the photographs. I have to show the best I have. This kind of feeling is totally positive. I bet.
So that's some update for the end of this year. This year might not perfect, but who want to be so perfect anyway. This year was good to me :)
See you again next year and of course HAPPY NEW YEAR 2012!!!
For a person with rather small posture (sorry Mas Agus, no offense), he has big stories to be told. Agustinus Wibowo, now at the age of 30, has accomplished Tibet, Nepal, India, Afghanistan, all countries in Central Asia, as well as Mongolia. During his years of travels, he managed to stay away from the tourist crowd, explored, and photographed some of the most remote corner of Asia: Wakhan Corridor for instance.
Not long prior embarking on his journey years ago, he was studying computer science in China. But the lure of travel made him left his career before it even started. Based from his travel, he already authored two best-selling travel book, completed with series of compelling photographs. A remarkable achievement in Indonesian standard.
Two weeks ago, I met him for the second time in a travel writing workshop by Galeri Bogor. Between his busy schedule, I managed to interview him, asking several questions regarding his photography.
(The interview was translated from Bahasa and edited for better understanding purpose)
Q: You've started making travel pictures for a while. But then you’ve made turn into a travel writer, yet without lossing your passion into photography. How would you call your photography nowadays?
A: My photography has endured a great deal of changes. Earlier, when I just started my journey I was more into travel photography. That’s because I was deeply fascinated by the exoticness of the place I visited. Whether its the colorful tribal costumes or its strange architectures. But then, after 4 years of non-stop traveling, after Tibet, Nepal and India where I still did a lot of travel photography, still went to touristy place, I then made my way to Pakistan, where I stayed for 6 months. I finally realized that all of these exoticness often meaningless. So I focused myself more into photo story, more story behind the pictures, like once when I was volunteered in a earthquake affected area there. And for sure they were not exotic, but they have some strong and compelling story to be told from their life. From their pictures we can see so many facets of lives itself. I then also realized that the more I'm into photography, the more I became connected with the people, also the more I think that photography alone isn’t enough to tell the whole stories. That's why I was also learning to write and transformed from travel photography into photojournalism. I believe these can bring a deeper reflection rather than disastrous image like what other photographers did in Afghanistan whot shot mines victims or opium addicts. I would like to take a deeper story: the life of the people. So basically now I am more into photojournalism and documentary photography.
Q: Did you ever attend any photographic courses? or you merely learn everything on the road? Tell me about it.
A: I actually never attended any photography course, but once when I was sturdying in China, we this photography class. And that was next to nothing, most of all that was boring. For me, photography isn’t about the techinal things. So most of the time, I learned by experience on the road. Also I found that one of the most important thing is communication. I like to learn the local language. It opened more doors wherever I go. Sometime, I could stay more than a week in a local family, which let me get a better perspectives.
Q: So learning local languages is very important to you?
A: For me, it's part of my photography. It makes less distances (for me and the subjects).
Q: I heard some people commenting that your photographs is quite different from other photographers who visited the same place as you did. Do you think this got something to do with your background as an Asian?
A: Again, I think that’s because I’m no longer looking at the exoticness of a place. We can see that some people still tend to focus on cliche subeject. As an example, when I lived in Afghanistan, for me it isn’t fair just look at one perspective. I want to offer more. It’s true that the war is happending there, but that isn’t the only thing about Afghanistan. I’m always drawn to the reality of life.
Q: You are seemed quite experienced going photographing to some remote corners of earth. Do you anything to share for budding photographer?
A: I have a concern that, as a foreigner, we always carry some sort of impact to any place we visit. We can see that many places are changing, and that’s also because travel becomes easier today. But we actually need to remember that people living in the remote area are rarely see the outside world, so by going there, with our modern gadget, most of the time we carry some sort of dream. So like nomadic in Mongolia, they are quite fascinated by modernization when I was there. And that the impact we bring is not always positive. Also we need to always remember, as a photograher we are intruder. We need to keep that we're not disturb anything. Many times when I visit a place, I feel that I really need to explain my intention. They need to know. When they are agree then I can start taking photographs. We cannot go into a place and then start shooting. We're not going to a zoo.
Q: Do you believe that photography can bring changes?
A: I always believe any writing or any journalism works can bring change, including visually-engaging photography. Many people now realized that afgan is more than just a country trapped in a never-ending war. Like the photograph of the Afghan Girl (by steve mccurry), it's simple but hipnotizing. With her green eyes and sharp look, it give us some sort of imagination about people there.
Q: Any future destination crossing in your mind nowadays?
A: Well, It is not about the destination but about the learning process. There are actually so many places where I want to learn. Now I can speak Mandarin, so I want to travel and write about China. It’s yet undone by anyone else in Indonesia. Others probably Russia, thanks to my Russian, and then Syria. I really want to learn Arabic, also for me, Middle East is so much exciting.
Q: Final tips about photographing?
A: Like what I told you before, please behave, dont think your object like animal in a zoo. We always need to know the limit. Be communicative and go closer. Sometime people tend go somewhere and just shot shot and shot. Also the technology advances today made some illusion when you can take as many pictures as you want. But it doesnt mean we just take pictures without thinking. And the last, be careful with your camera.
More of Agustinus Wibowo work can be seen here.
"Well, O.K, this one is going to be published" said one of a Indonesian magazine (We name this magazine Stepping Stones for now) editor to me this week, and that's a good news. I finished selecting the pictures, so with the writing, and it's a travel feature from my trip a while ago. Now I am the last phase of the work; seeing the things in the newstand. But wait, since I know this editor quite well―however, this is going to be the first time my feature story getting published in Stepping Stones―I forgot to ask about the going rate.
Yes, here, now we're talking about money. "This is how much you're going to be paid, and we always pay everyone at the same amount" the editor said. And I was shocked, almost collapsed. I won't tell you how much, but it was much less than I used to get in the other publication. It was less enough to make you stop dreaming of becoming either a contributing writer or a photographer. And what I also took into account, this is a decent magazine.
Some people tend to disregard what we're actually doing, whether intentional or not, and that's a bad news. These people are seemed born to this world, and out of nowhere, find themselves appointed as an editor. The bad one.
There's a saying 'if you want to be rich, then stop being a journalist (writer, photographer, or whatever)'. It's bad, but it's true. When I started few years back, money was the last thing I ever thought about. I need it so I could go on traveling, which more often I need to do something else too, let's say wedding photography that I still do it frequently. And when you find an editor who put you on the edge by those tiny sum (even giving it for free will be better), it's truly disgraceful. Nothing worse than that.
What's worse is things won't end this way. If I agreed the rate in the Stepping Stones (Let me tell you again, it's far away too low), it's not only me who's going to suffer. Next time, there will be other fellow contributors submitting their works, and for sure they will be paid the same amount (or a little bit more if they are famous). We're killing each other, and I don't want it happens.
Of course, there are still so many good publications as well as good editors out there. They realize what kind of things we're facing on the way. And what is most important, they realize that the relationship between them and us is mutualism. They know their publication won't be interesting without good pictures and writings. And Us, we need to publish our work so we can continue living, wandering around and...(you fill this for whatever your reasons are). This kind of editors are willing to discuss everything, including an agreable fee. And a relief always they are.
I finally prefer to cancel my publication with the Stepping Stones, at least for now. Period.