Publication, Travel, Travel Photography

DestinAsian Indonesia May – June 2013

Few days back, I just realized that it has been more than a year since my last post. Time passed so quick and that’s terrible for this blog, extraordinarily terrible. For now at least, no second glance, I’m up for blogging again. Will I post regularly? Honestly, I have no idea yet. But will see if this new blog outlook will bring something good.

So, back in March, I was shooting around Magelang, Central Java, for a main travel feature in the May-June edition of DestinAsian Indonesia, the second edition of the magazine. I’ve been in Magelang before, but that was long time ago. And to my surprise, just like Tony Wheeler who’ve been always ignored this city in his Indonesia edition of Lonely Planet, I’ve actually missed many charms about this place, literally.

The trip itself took me to Oei Hong Djien Museum, Selogriyo (the Ubud of Central Java), some less visited temples (you’ll meet no other curious tourists other than yourself, and there are more than 70 other temples around), and some great resorts (I didn’t usually find any resort stay worth to be the highlight of my trip but who can resist the joy at Villa Borobudur).

The shooting conditions were great, and a lot of photo opportunities around. I just can’t complain.

Well, here’s the complete tearsheet and you can read the whole story here in Bahasa.

Muhammad_Fadli_MGL01 Muhammad_Fadli_MGL02 Muhammad_Fadli_MGL03 Muhammad_Fadli_MGL04 Muhammad_Fadli_MGL05 Muhammad_Fadli_MGL06 Muhammad_Fadli_MGL07

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Travel, Travel Photography

A Glimpse of Iran

Well, it’s been a while since the last time I posted something. The plans to fill this blog regularly remains just as that—plans. But today I’m trying to keep up, updating it with something new. It will be brief, but with pictures 😀

An Iranian Women in Yazd’s Bazaar

So now I’m in Iran, traveling to some parts of the country for 13 days (that’s kind of short). Arrived in the middle of last week, my first impression of this country was a little more than I ever expected. Probably that’s because of the everlasting impression created by the Western media—they made us think that Iran is not a safe place to go, and above all it’s on the United States list of the Axis of Evil.

The crumbling part of Yazd’s old city

An afternoon at the Yazd’s old city

The reality is just far away from that. Many times I found out that much of what media said about a country is wrong. And in Iran almost all of it are wrong. I can see how this country which full of kind-hearted Iranians is treated unfair by the world. For me it will be always likely to be on my list of the Axis of Good.

The Amir Chakmakh of Yazd

My travel was begun in Tehran. Unlike most of my travel before, I’m enjoying Iran with a good friend of mine, Mohammad Safir Makki from the Jakarta Globe. But we don’t have a lot of time. Instead of spending more days in the capital, we rushed to Yazd, a city flanked by never-ending desert in Central Iran. Here, where the weather is always burning during summer, we found a warm hospitality of the Iranians even more.

Iranians drive Paykans, the world drives the rest

There are a lot of stories. But I’m prefer to save it for later. This will be just the first.

And today, I’m in Esfahan.

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Publication, Travel Photography

Lipka Tatar’s Trail : Garuda Magazine

The pictures and words report from my trip to Kruszyniany, a Lipka Tatar village in eastern part of Poland finally published in recent edition of Garuda Magazine (Middle East Edition). It is nicely put on the cover and run six pages inside. What I’m so happy about, my favourite image displayed really well for the double spread title page 🙂

“These days, along with their muslim tradition, some thousands Lipka Tatars still live in Poland, Lithuania and Belarus.”


Lipka Tatar is a group of Tatar who initially resided in Grand Duchy of Lithuania during the 14th century.  Their ancestors can be tracked back to the Golden Horde, the later Mongolian Khanate famous for its nomadic style of living. But instead of bringing their shamanistic religion from the east, the Lipka Tatars are Sunni Muslims.

The Wodden Mosque of Kruszyniany on the Cover

Tatars, along with their ancestors are famous thourghout history for one thing: horse-riding. In the war-infested medieval times, the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth saw this as a great chance. This was a right decision. By waging them as soldiers, the commonwealth won some crucial battle, including the Battle of Grunwald against the Teutonic Knight. As the result, the Lipka Tatars gained a noble status which granted them spacious lands to live on.

***

These days, along with their muslim tradition, some thousands Lipka Tatars still live in Poland, Lithuania and Belarus. My visit to Poland on summer 2011 has brought me to Kruszyniany, a small deserted village near Belarus border (there are also another village called Bohoniki). The inital plan was to do an in-depth photo reportage there. But everything wasn’t going too well. I messed up the planning with a bad last-minute research.

Special thanks to (Jedrek Wojnar)

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News, Travel, Travel Photography

A Note & Postcards from Pacu Jawi

A picture is worth a thousand words. Yes, you’ve heard it, and I’ve heard it too. But now a picture is also worth a thousand dollars.

If you’re smart enough, in today’s not-so-nice situation for emerging photographers, you still can sell a photograph for that amount. But here I’m not talking about that. Instead, by saying “a picture is worth a thousand dollars” I’m talking briefly of how a photograph can actually help a community to maintain their tradition. And they are the people of Tanah Datar, who held Pacu Jawi (you can read my description here). The famous Indonesian bull’s racing in West Sumatra.

The Pacu Jawi © Muhammad Fadli

Yesterday, I visited Tabek to shoot Pacu Jawi for the countless times. This village is somehow really special for me since this was the place where I did the Community Development Participation (Kuliah Kerja Nyata or KKN) during my college years in back in 2005. Here, I experienced one of the most happiest moment in my life: shared a real life with villagers for two months. So when a good friend from Tabek called me few days ago telling Pacu Jawi will be held there, I felt like I was facing an offer I can’t refuse (citing The Godfather). Departing from Padang, I accelerated my car passing the winding road that decorate the land of Minangkabau.

“If you’re visiting, you’re guaranteed a tasty local food and the sweet ‘kawa’ without having to be ripped off.”


What I found surprised me. Pacu Jawi today, is being celebrated more than ever before. Three years ago, when I first shot Pacu Jawi, there were only very few outsider watching the raging bulls running through the wet unplanted ricefield. Most people were locals. But then, there were more and more outsiders came, especially after the photographs of Pacu Jawi were published widely (almost all were done by local photographers and you can see my first photo of the festival here). Yesterday there were two Indonesian national TV (with their beautiful hosts), a horde of photographers, and tourists. This is good!!

© Muhammad Fadli

The Pacu Jawi © Muhammad Fadli

The more ousiders come, the more of the local economy will develop (it’s pretty obvious, so I actually don’t need to tell you this). In Pacu Jawi, locals sell anything from foods to toys. If you’re visiting, you’re guaranteed a tasty local food and the sweet kawa (like coffee but different) without having to be ripped off. And I can see that they are started making good business. By looking at this I couldn’t be happier.

So be sure to spend some of your money here.

P.S: If you’re a photographer, the local usually will also ask you to register as a guest. They will ask you for some donation too. Please kindly fill the box as you wish. Don’t mind. This will go directly to the community and making sure the bulls keep running.

(Pacu Jawi is held almost every Saturday somewhere in Tanah Datar. The series in Tabek will be celebrated until early February 2012)

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News, Travel, Travel Photography

Our Modest New Year’s Eve

For you, what is the best experience of enjoying the New Year’s Eve? Do you feel like to party? Do you feel like to fill yourself up with some beer? or may be driving along the coast while pushing your horn into the deafening decibel right at the 00.00? Well, as long as you’re happy, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Last year, I spent the night before 2011 begun in Sikuai Island, off the west coast of Padang and left disappointed. The party was lame and poorly organized. Rather than experiencing some inspiring moments, I felt like I was putting a bad start for my 2011. I could’ve just stayed at home for a solitary moment.

So, when 2012 was approaching several days back, I was thinking about what to do. And I gave up the any idea about another lame party. Before long, I decided to go on a trip with few friends (me, Faiz, Zhu, Aciak, and Rio). The destination shouldn’t be too far, but it had to be interesting and fresh. The only thing that crossed our mind was Kerinci, a highland in Jambi province famous with some of the best natural and cultural diversity. Actually, the initial plan was to go there mid-December ago. But I was getting back to Padang quite late from the date of our departure. So we’d better make it for our New Year’s Eve. Since Kerinci would be too vast for us, we then picked Gunung Tujuh (Seven Mountain).  The plan was we would camp there, celebrate the incoming of 2012, and make some pictures out of it.

***

Mount Kerinci 3,805m © Muhammad Fadli

The trip to Kerinci from Padang took us about 6 hour. After some hundred kilometers and tons of winding lane we finally arrived at 2 a.m in Telun Berasap, a small village near the border of Jambi province and West Sumatra. The night was cold and the only person we met was a guy working for Indonesian Transportation Department who seemed didn’t want to share the fire and space with us. Here, deep inside Sumatra, you really don’t have much choice. We then pulled out our sleeping bag and try to sleep right in front of a closed shop under the threat of scattered duck shit.

A Trekker Rests on a Collapsed Tree © Muhammad Fadli

High on the mountanious Kerinci, the sun shone earlier. To my surprise, I woke up at 5.30 a.m to find that Mount Kerinci was looming right behind the place where I slept. This was not my first encounter with Kerinci, but this was the closest I ever came across.

At 3,805m above sea level, Kerinci is the highest volcano in the South-East Asia. From Telun Berasap, I could see it rise up from the lush valley into a perfect cone. But what I admire the most is its massive size. Before Kerinci, I never saw a volcano that huge. By the time Kerinci coughed up its brown ashes that morning (30/12), I was both mesmerized and anxious.

***

Lake Gunung Tujuh © Muhammad Fadli

Lake Gunung Tujuh © Muhammad Fadli

Starry Night at the Lake of Gunung Tujuh © Muhammad Fadli

At 8 a.m, we finally arrived at Pelompek, the last place where we can purchase anything that we forgot for the hike to Gunung Tujuh. After an hour or so, we then started heading to the gatehouse of Kerinci Seblat National Park few kilometers away. Thanks to Mario and friends from Kerinci Photography Community, we just need to sit at the back of motorcycle which saved us some valuable energy.

The hike to Gunung Tujuh was my first since 2009. After my trip to Everest Region in Nepal on October two years ago I almost never set my foot on any hiking trip. Mostly, time was the reason. I wasn’t too busy, but it seemed that I’ve always had some problem organizing my time. By the time we ascended the path to Gunung Tujuh, I know that I missed mountain a lot.

“When the night was falling, our only friends were the stars, the slow ripple of Lake Gunung Tujuh, the packs of cigarette, and some old songs from Iwan Fals.”


The path to Gunung Tujuh was quite easy. However, there’s no shortcut to heaven. Like any other volcano, the path is mostly ascending. Compared to the trek in Everest Region which has a combination between ascending, some steep descending, and walking at the same level, volcano trek is virtually only ascending. The only way is up. That’s what make it somehow somehow more sternous.

***

Our Night at the Camp © Muhammad Fadli

Fireworks © Muhammad Fadli

Bathers at the Lake of Gunung Tujuh © Muhammad Fadli

Bathers at the Lake of Gunung Tujuh © Muhammad Fadli

We finally reached one of the seven peak of Gunung Tujuh around 2 p.m. We then descended to the lakeside at the altitude of 1,950m. After some puff of cigarette, we set our camp and had some lunch with a great view: the deep blue water of one of the highest caldera in South-East Asia region. When the night was falling, our only friends were the stars, the slow ripple of Lake Gunung Tujuh, the packs of cigarette, and some old songs from Iwan Fals sung by Faiz. And there’s only one thing we should patiently wait: the very first second of 2012. We had some packs of fireworks from our childhood to be burned, that was how we celebrated the New Year’s Eve.

The complete series of the photographs will be uploaded soon in http://muhammadfadli.com/.

(Special Thanks to Zhu, Mario, and KOMPAK)

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News, Photojournalism, Portrait Photography, Street Photography, Travel, Travel Photography

2011: My Year in Review

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.

Agnes Monica © Muhammad Fadli

Rhoma Irama © Muhammad Fadli

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.

The dancing Old Couple, Chengdu

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.

An afternoon at Planty Park, Krakow

Old Wooden mosque, Kruszyniany

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.

Rynek Glowny, Krakow

A club scene at Rynek we Wrocławiu, Wroclaw

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.

Street Scene, Clarke Quay, Singapore

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).

Screen Grab for the new Website

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!!!

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Photojournalism, Travel Photography, Under the Skin

Under the Skin: Agustinus Wibowo

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.

Agustinus Wibowo, as I shot for TEMPO a while ago

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.

An Afghan Boy Behind the Burqa, Copyright by Agustinus Wibowo

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).

Road to Pamir, Copyright by Agustinus Wibowo

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.

An Harvesting Wakhi Women, Copyright by Agustinus Wibowo

Kazakh Eagle Hunter of Bayan Olgii, Copyright by Agustinus Wibowo

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.

War's Victim in Afghanistan, Copyright by Agustinus Wibowo

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.

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