Infocus.org Interviews Andrew Suryono
I've always believed in the power of photography to make a positive impact in our environment. This is one of the reason why I worked closely with companies who share the same vision as I do. One of the companies that shares exactly the same value as me is Infocus.org. They believe that visual communication can be used to share important stories about environmental sustainability to create global change.
Jasper Wilkins, the founder of Infocus.org took some time to interview me. He wanted me to share my view of photography and environmental sustainability. Here's my interview with him.
Can You Tell Me A Bit of Your Background?
I got into photography by accident. I was in college and I was experimenting with selling stuff on eBay to make some extra cash. One thing that I noticed was that the exact item can sell for a higher price if it has better photo. So, I decided to learn a bit about photography. Once I tried photography, I was hooked on the process. I began researching and learning about exposure, composition, lighting, post processing. Basically everything that can make a photo stand out.
After I got familiar with product photography, I continued my experiment by taking photos of my family and loved ones. Landscape, wildlife, street and travel followed afterwards. I try to expose myself to as many different kind of photography as possible because I enjoy the learning process from various fields. One of the hardest question for me to answer is what kind of photographer I am. But if I'm pressed to answer, I consider myself a travel, street and portrait photographer.
I am currently working on a project to explore my home country, Indonesia. Not many people know about this country even though it's the planet's 4th most populous country. I seek to photograph the vanishing culture, the endangered animals and the untamed landscape.
What Do You Think Are Some Threats to Our Planet?
I think the primary threats to our planet is human ignorance. As a species, we have the most ability to impact the planet for the better or worse. How we want to impact the planet will be largely determined by our awareness of our role in this planet. The more we are educated to what actions are harmful and what actions are beneficial to our planet, the better off our planet will be. Photography, combined with the internet can be a good tool to educate people to care about the planet and to minimize human ignorance.
What is The Purpose of Photography?
I think photography has 3 main purposes:
1. To preserve
Things are constantly changing. I change, you change, our kids change, society change, the whole world change. Photography gives us the ability to freeze any moment in time which we can access again in the future. Also, we store our emotions as well with the photograph. That's why when we look at old photographs, we can imagine what it was like in the past and get emotional.
2. To communicate
Drawings and symbols have been part of human communication long before we invented words. Photography can replace drawings as a method of communication. We can look at a photograph briefly and get a lot more meaning compared to reading a long text. With the rise of the internet and digital photography, photography has become a crucial element in our day to day communication.
3. To inspire
I think this is the most important purpose of photography. Some photographs, the really strong ones can really inspire people to take action and make changes. Some photographs can to inspire people to care about the planet, protect endangered animals or change political viewpoints. I think this is the ultimate goal of photography and what all photographers should strive for.
Could You Tell Me A Memorable Experience From One of Your Trips?
On my trip to New Zealand, I went to Queenstown. I was so excited to explore this place because of all the photographic opportunities there. It was my dream to travel to as many countries as I can when I still can. I arrived at the hotel in Queenstown and was greeted by the receptionist. She was a lady in her early fourties and she was very friendly. "Where are you from?" she asked and I said "Indonesia. know anything about the place?" I assumed she knew nothing about Indonesia because foreigners rarely do. She then asked "Which island?" Now this is a very are question that I did not expect. Not many people know that Indonesia has more than ten thousands island. I answered "Java island." She then said "Oh wow! I've been there for 6 months exploring the island! I rented a motorcycle and traveled through the island's perimeter. You have some of the most beautiful landscape and culture!" She then told me very local places that she went to in my island that I've never heard of. My equipment changes frequently but I always use three things: my brain, eyes and heart. Without them, I cannot make great photographs, no matter how expensive my equipments are. The equipment that I use will be dictated by those 3 things according to my needs.
To me this was quite shocking. I didn't know as much about my island, let alone my country as this hotel receptionist does. My desire to explore have surpassed my desire to find a deeper meaning in my photograph. This encounter made me change my approach to my travel photography. Now I am on the quest to explore my home country as much as I can and share my findings to the world.
I think this is a great lesson for other travel photographers out there. Too many photographers want to get lost and explore the world, away from their countries. They do this before even knowing what their countries have to offer. Then traveling becomes this superficial things that you do just to impress people and sooner or later, they will find "emptiness" in their travel journey. If you want to travel, start with your home country. Explore it and know it deeply. Find your roots. When you've done that, get ready to explore the land outside your home country. Tell stories of your home country and inspire people you meet along the way. Listen to theirs and relate to your story. This way, you'll find a really deep meaning in your travel journey.
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