Photojournalism, Under the Skin

Under the Skin: Dwianto Wibowo

The night was hot and the sky was paled blue, what lay beneath was a horde of vehicles, car, bus, three-wheeler, motorcycle and whatever creatures consuming the gas. I was sitting on the top floor of a building smoking a handful of kretek into ashes. My right hand was holding a note which seemed to be no more than a wrinkled piece of paper. This note is a important part of this post you’re reading. It was filled with several questions. Question that I would address to an emerging talent of Indonesian photojournalism in front of me: Dwianto Wibowo.

Dwianto Wibowo, 20-something, works for TEMPO weekly news magazine. I started to know him just few months ago and soon we’re becoming a good friend. But it’s not because he’s my friend that he can actually appear on this blog. This blog is photo-related, not friend-related. So I better have a good reason putting him in.

As some of you might know, Dwianto just won a prestigious award from Pewarta Foto Indonesia (Indonesian Photojournalist Association). He got the first prize in Photo Essay category and got some other photographs nominated in several others categories.  I was both happy and stunned. As a newcomer in Indonesian Photojournalism, his achievement amazed many. However, if you look at his works (you really have to), you will get some clue of why he took away the prize that was wanted by everyone. For me, it’s actually not that surprising. I knew he deserve it though.

So, let’s not put so much story in this. Dwianto Wibowo will speak for himself about several things (he usually doesn’t talk much). Like the title suggested, this will be an exclusive interview. And this “Under the Skin” is planned to be posted continuously by the time I have a chance to “peel” every inspiring photographer I will ever bump into in the future. I hope this interview will invaluable to help us recognizing some less-exposed aspiring photographers and his work closer. Any suggestion and comments will be really appreciated.

And now, let’s get under his skin…

(This interview has been translated from Bahasa into English for this blog purposes)

Q: Tell me, how was everything begun, how did you start taking pictures and end up becoming a photojournalist?

A: I love to look at something, for me looking give me a meaning in life. We learn when we look at something. My family is also a big influence. My father love to draw and visual art. But the one with bigger influence was my uncle, who was a journalist. When I was traveling as kid, there was always a camera in my uncle and father’s car. And it inspire me somehow, as a kid, to become a journalist in the future. When I enter my study in the college, I once wished that by learning graphic design will help me much in my visual learning process, but that was printing process that i learned. But still it has done something for me. Then about photojournalism, I learned it mostly by making wedding pictures. I shoot frequently in the church. And it was my friend, the one who I learned from, who asked me to go with him. That’s how I learned about how to put a story into pictures.  In the later years, I try to work for an Indonesian leading newspaper to pursue my learning process from some photographers that I adore. That’s how I seriously wanted myself to become a photojournalist. And It was just recently, like 3 or 4 years ago.

Q: As a photojournalist, what is your personal photographic vision?

A: Basically, like all photojournalist, I have a good amount of responsibility to tell something to the others. And I keep learning since I feel I am not yet an expert regarding this matter. And further, I always try to bring some degree of my artistic vision into my photojournalism. The visual of a photographs is just as important as the story inside the pictures itself. It can be said that I want my photography to be both telling stories and visually engaging.

Habib, Jakarta, Copyright by Dwianto Wibowo

Q: And now, you have won a prestigious award by PFI in its 2010’s award, tell me how do you feel.

A: This is actually my first award during my few years in photojournalism. Honestly I can’t express how happy and grateful I am. I am totally happy being appreciated by some influential Indonesian photojournalist who somehow I rarely meet physically. And I need to tell that, in the last few years, I was always studying their pictures. One of them who I met during the awarding ceremony, tell me that he visited my blog quite often and likes my works. In short, I am extremely excited.

Q: You seemed to be quite picky in putting your story for this award. You submitted a photo series about Jakarta Transportation system, in this case it’s about Transjakarta. And what I feel, there would not be many photojournalist will do it. Why did you choose it?

A: I see it differently. I am actually a beginner in making documentary photography. The reason why I picked it is because I felt that exploring something not human could be more challenging. I also inspired by some foreign photographers who I saw over the web. But what I also need to tell you is that, at the same time I personally still feel unable to manage myself to put a bigger issues into a story. It’s more difficult and time-consuming. The research need to be deeper and need more courage. And about Transjakarta, it was something that I could afford. It need less time but at the same time, it’s challenging. I’m happy I did that.

The Merchants of Lamalera, Copyright by Dwianto Wibowo

Titiek Puspa, Copyright by Dwianto Wibowo

Q: Tell me your personal opinion about Indonesian Photojournalism.

A: I was just started working from the last couple of years. And it will be premature enough if I have to judge. But from what I heard from some respected Indonesian photojournalist, who also happened to be the judge of PFI award, the advancement of Indonesian photojournalism is not yet much changed ever. Most photographers simply don’t have time to develop themselves by covering more special issues. They still keep working like machine.

Q: What do you think about the future of Indonesian Photojournalism?

A: I believe there are still so many chance if one really put him/herself to explore. Photojournalism, for many Indonesian, is still something need to be explored for more. We still have so many possibilities and there are so many things need to be discovered.

Q: As a photojournalist, what is your biggest challenge nowadays?

A: The biggest challenge, in my point of view as a stringer photographer, is equipment. I need to be self-sufficient in everything. And as Indonesian, financial is also a problem when doing a project. And being a photojournalist in Indonesia is also not an economically comfortable way to live. But I hope it will change in the future.

Hanung Brahmantyo, Copyright by Dwianto Wibowo

Q: Tell me some photographers who inspire you. and tell me why.

A: They are Paolo Pellegrin, Justin Maxon, and Trent Parke. But honestly, I really don’t know what to say if you ask me why. And if I really have to tell, it’s just they seemed to have interesting stories to be told in an interesting way. Their pictures are unique. They have their own way to explore the issues. Two Indonesian name also popped up in my mind, they are Oscar Motuloh and Donang Wahyu.

Q: Which one is suitable for you, image-maker or story-teller?

A: I am not yet in that step. But I want to be both.

Q: O.k, the last one, do you have anything to share for photography enthusiast?

A: Think out of the box, don’t be afraid to try new things, and explore every possibilities.

***

You can see more of Dwianto Wibowo’s works here and the Transjakarta series here.

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