Struggle against all odds

Gate to heaven. 1994. Pre commercial era.

How do you measure success in some one’s life ? Is it by how much materials he/she possess, the outer appearance, financial statement each month, health, dream come true, or is there anything deeper than those things ?

I have been a photography enthusiast for nearly 28 years now and in commercial photography for 20 years. Being an amateur one is easy, I just shoot whatever comes to mind, do it according to my taste even when others consider my art as nonsense, and carry on with my life. On the other side, being a commercial photographer is completely different matter. I read lots of how to, do’s and don’t in professional photography from books and magazines before I got into it. There’s so much rules and even if they are easy to apply, I live on the other side of globe which means most of the rules are not applied in here. So in the end, I could just lived with it and keep going for that moment. After several years shooting varieties of objects, from consumer goods, industrial, food and beverages, people, architecture, machineries, etc, unconsciously I began to forget who I am, of my true identity as a photographer, of my most desirable object in photography.

Fruits & Wine. 1997. Sinar F1 with Rodenstock 150/5.6 on EPP 4x5”

Years rolled on and all I gained from each assignment was only money, and a slight sparks of pride when my images appeared in print ads or other media. That’s all. What I didn’t realize was I killed my true self and passion inside. I wouldn’t know it until in 2005 I became a total robot photographer, yes, someone who just shooting for money, nothing more.

Robotic photography. 2004. Couldn't do any more improvement upon this image.

Don’t you think it’s strange when I wanted to do a still life, something I love the most but the moment I see through the viewfinder, all I felt was a stressful feeling. It really struck me deep and only by luck I finally find the mistake.

I met a fellow photographer and he talked lots of phylosophy to me, sharing his inner thought and encourage me in pure way a friend can be. Needless to say he’s one of the succesful photographer at the time. He’s also into general photography as everyone does in Indonesia.

Slowly I progressed through painful trial and error again to find my inner self back. You see, being in commercial photography will dictates you what may or may not be done in order to survive, it’s like someone has filtered your mind. You just shoot in a way or more like everybody else does. If the trend of some style is in, you better be able to do it. This circumstances drove my mind like a robot and for years I couldn’t listen to my heart in creating an image. This was disaster to me and made me a stressful impotent photographer.

After some encounters with my friend, I tried to make images not using my brain but more of a heart inspired. It’s tough at first but slowly I could build a new way of working and honestly it was really a huge relief. I began to feel happy about my images even if it’s not been paid. I became my self again, dare to apply my ideas instantly into the image and I gained back my lost years as a robot, now as a full self respect photographer. Lots of experienced occured during 2005-2007 that brought new path to my liberation in my photography. I couldn’t thank enough my friend for what happened in my life.

Chopped mushrooms. Simple object with no objection about technique, esthetic matters, just grabbed it and shoot !

Vintage weigher.

Ever since 2005 my horizon was widened and I got some famous client that truly is a company with professionals. Usually when a company hire you to shoot their products, the boss would be the one who meet you or look up at your portfolio, dealing with the price and in the end is the final decision about hiring you or not.

But once in my life this time they sent a professional brand image manager to meet me and saw my portfolio. She was the one who decide to hire me, not because of my price but because my photography style suit her concept for the intended campaign. Later the marketing department would called me and asked for a quotation for the campaign. And the boss was not directly involved in negotiation. The session also ran smoothly with a manager in charge during photo session. This is the company I long to work for in any time of my life.

And obviously they never ask such thing as “what camera you use, what lights brand you use etc.” What they care is whether your image could help promote their product and become a strong marketing tool.

From a client's assignment. After 2005.

A set up on location this was originally a furniture factory with two L shaped walls only.

After 2005

What I learned in the next stage was it is also important to find my self identity, of who I am and what am I suppose to shoot as a photographer. As I believe each persons have each purpose on this earth to accomplish as we complete each other to create harmonious life on earth. So the search of my true self went deeper and deeper.

After several nervous breakdown and a stroke in 2007, in August 2010 I went to Bali on a spiritual journey to rediscover my self. You can read it here : https://storythroughthelens.wordpress.com/2012/03/21/travel-journal-resurrection-in-bali-part-1/ and here : https://storythroughthelens.wordpress.com/2012/03/22/travel-journal-resurrection-in-bali-part-2/ also here : https://storythroughthelens.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/travel-journal-resurrection-in-bali-part-3/

May be my odyssey is not done yet, as I always have a tendency to seek more, to discover more just like a child who is willing to learn, craving for more.

The path to liberation is not smooth and easy as we all have the tendency to live or hide in our comfort zone. It’s truly take a brave man to get out of his comfort zone to discover who he really is, to find a revelation about who he is. We live in an internet era when you can gain access to enourmous unlimited information anytime anywhere. Who you are, where you want to be, what you want to do next, is just a matter of a click away. Frankly I went to travel also with no cash and surely not in an ideal situation physically, financially, emotionally, but I dare my self to move on to next level, it’s been too long I stay in a nutshell and stay in my bored little world. So I am a happier person now with improved relationship with my wife, and two sons, have a better career in commercial photography with contracts and as am writing this, have a blog of my dream and can write my own article/stories which I learned from free ebook by Farnoosh Brooke here : http://clicks.aweber.com/y/ct/?l=CC816&m=LufS3Rf346VMCR&b=FXVC8_NTaP6FEJLazMj7Eg and about blogging here : http://www.howtomakemyblog.com/.

My other inspiration and also a buddy of mine is Doddy and I would like to express my gratitude to him, he is truly an amazing photographer, he has been through the craziest life turmoil and got out of the pit, alive and kicking ! And he helped me out, as well, and it’s amazing to have a help from fellow photographer. We discuss our dreams together, share our troubles, blockages and many more. You can check him out here : http://www.facebook.com/doddy.obenk he have plenty of amazing images in there.

It is pretty rare to have a fellow photographer who is willing to listen to your problem and giving some hints with a pure heart with no slight envious breath in them. We still keep in touch everyday and shoot some cultural events together.

Well my story end here but the struggle to be a better person will continue on, for other people, to share my talent, my skill and my passion about photography.