Indonesian ‘Hobbyist’ Photographer Creates Breathtaking Black and White Photos

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Hengki Koentjoro is a fine art photographer based in Jakarta, Indonesia. Born in Semarang, Central Java, his love affair with photography began when his parents gave him a Kodak pocket camera as a birthday present when he turned 11 years old.

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After graduating from California’s Brooks Institute of Photography with a major in film/video production and minor in Black & White photography, Hengki returned to Indonesia and settled in Jakarta. There, he works as a videographer and video editor. His video work mostly consists of corporate profiles, TV commercials, and nature documentaries.

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Although Hengki claims photography is just a serious hobby that he indulges in his spare time, his images have won countless awards worldwide. It’s easy to understand why.

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Hengki’s preference for black and white photography is influenced by his admiration for the work of Ansel Adams. In his own words, Hengki says of Adams, “His ability to control the tonality to create moods and atmosphere captivated me and my passion started from there and I never looked back”.

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Practicing Ansel Adam’s Zone System, before shooting, Hengki tries to envision his subjects in black and white. He believes this helps in choosing the proper subject matter, composing the photo, and forecasting how the resulting image will look.

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The ability to play around with tones allows Henki to create atmospheric photos that beautifully balance a combination of composition, texture, shapes and lines.

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“Photography can never be separated from the aspects of making the common things unusual, welcoming the unexpected, indulging and embracing ourselves with the joy of photography”. Hengki Koentjoro

Lake Lido

The First Indonesian Photographer

Kassian Cephas
Kassian Cephas

Outside of a small circle of historians interested in Indonesian culture, Kassian Cephas is scarcely known. A court photographer for Java’s Yogyakarta Sultanate in Java during the late 19th century, Kassian Cephas was Indonesia’s first professional photographer.

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Born in 1845 during Dutch colonial rule, Cephas was trained by a Dutchman at the request of Sultan Hamengkubuwana VI. (According to oral tradition, his father was Dutch and his mother Indonesian). By the early 1870’s, Cephas was appointed as court painter and photographer. His responsibilities were to take portraits of the royal family.

Borobudur temple panels
Borobudur temple panels

Recognizing his skills, the Dutch Archaeological Union commissioned Cephas to photograph Indonesia’s iconic buildings and ancient monuments for posterity.

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After the hidden base of the Borobudur temple complex was discovered in 1885, Cephas was requested to record the hidden panels with his camera. To expedite the documentation, the base was briefly uncovered in 1890, and then covered again in 1891.

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In recognition of his photographic contribution to archeology, Cephas was appointed as an “extraordinary member” of the Batavian Society of Arts and Sciences following the completion of the Borobudur project. Subsequently, he was also made a member of the Royal Institute in recognition of his work with for the Dutch Archaeological Union.

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Along with his architectural photography, Cephas continued working as a court photographer. In 1896 he photographed a visit to Yogyakarta by Thailand’s King Chulalongkorm. Later, in 1899 he documented the four-year commemoration of the accession of Hamengkunegars III to the throne as Crown Prince of the Yogyakarta Sultanate.

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Cephas retired when he reached 60 years of age, and passed away seven years later in 1912 due to illness.

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Although he was an accomplished court photographer and architectural photographer, Cephas is mainly celebrated in Indonesia today as the first Indonesian to become a professional photographer.

 

Photographer Herman Damar Captures the Best of Indonesian Village Life

Indonesian village woman and girl
Indonesian village woman and girl

Self-taught photographer Herman Damar lives in Indonesia. He came to the attention of the photographic community with the images he captured of idealistic moments of the everyday life of villagers residing outside of Jakarta.

Indonesian village man washing water buffalo
Indonesian village man throwing bucket of water on water buffalo

An ex-advertising director, Damar’s beautiful photos focus on the warmth of traditional village life. The settings, composition, and warm light all combine to give an idyllic quality to Damar’s photos. He says his favorite time to shoot is between 7am-9am.

Indonesian boys having water fight
Indonesian boys playing, having water fight

Particularly alluring are Damar’s images of village children playing in their natural element – in rivers, in muddy fields, with hand-made toys, and with their farm animals. His images beautifully emphasize the connection the villagers have with the natural world around them.

Village boy playing with chicken
Indonesian village boy blowing water at chicken

According to Damar, the villagers are very friendly and happy to have him take their photo. This is perhaps due to the fact that he spends time among the villagers learning about them and their lives.

Indonesian children at play
IThree ndonesian village children playing

I definitely hope Herman Damar continues to create his wonderful images, and look forward to seeing the results of his next projects.

Indonesian boy in the rain
Black & white photo of Indonesian boy under a leaf in the rain