It’s Through This Lens That I’m Most Honest

October 11, 2009

ika (1)

People often ask me how I suddenly take up photography after a long history of interest in writing (which I still do). I don’t even remember how I got into photography in the first place. I vaguely recall being particularly interested in this photography exhibition about the Aborigines culture in Canberra once. And then there’s hours of being awed by Annie Liebovitz’s work on Vanity Fair. But I do remember the moment when I thought I should get a serious camera. Both my best friend rina and I were in Jakarta for business – this was way back when I was still working in Medan – and we decided to grab a quick bite at Pacific Place (it was within walking distance from the head office). And there happened to be a WorldPress Photography Exhibiton all around the ground floor, showing the best works from the best photographers from all around the world in many themes: humanitarian, environment, culture, sports, to war. We spent probably a good 45 minutes staring at those pictures, but I particularly remember a couple of photos that caught my attention right away. One was in black and white, by a Hungarian photographer Zsolt Szigetváry, of a man looking ghastly and scared, whilst holding another man with a bullet hole on his forehead. The caption said that this was taken during a gay parade in Budapest in 2007, and the couple was a one of the targets in anti-gay violence after the Gay Pride parade. Another one was in color, this one was taken by a British photographer Tim Hetherington in Afghanistan. It was photograph of a soldier, out of breath and strained, sinking onto an embankment bunker after a hard day of combat.

To me, it was amazing how a photograph – it doesn’t speak, it doesn’t have music as the soundtrack, it doesn’t move – just a silent photograph, could speak a thousand words. It can leave you wondering for days, provoking your thoughts in ways you never thought possible before. It is still amazing how a moment captured on photograph has the power to awaken me, open my eyes to other parts of life outside my little egocentric self. The second one, for example, raised a lot of questions on my part. Did the guy survive the war? What was on his mind during that very moment? Did the photographer risk his life by being in the middle of combat to take this shot?

I just love how a simple picture could tell a long, complicated story. It’s very different from, say, seeing a movie: the sequences of scenes, dialogues, and settings all provide you with almost everything you need to get in touch with the story. Or reading a book, for that matter. But getting, not just seeing, a picture is a whole different experience.

Coming back from that business trip, I had one thing in mind: getting a serious camera – and by serious I mean the DSLR one – and learn photography. For somebody who’s grown accustomed to delivering my thoughts, ideas, emotions through words, changing the media into photographs was not that easy. Writers have this godlike power of telling the story through their carefully picked words, leading the readers towards the perception that they want to build, supporting or killing a character whenever they want to. If I want to describe that somebody is sad, I just have to write as blatantly as “he’s sad.” Taking pictures is a whole different story. I can not easily lead the ones who see them to get my message as saying as writing “he’s sad.” I have to capture the essence of that feeling through the object’s facial expression, movements, body language, or even better, his eyes. I forgot where I saw this, but I saw this remarkable picture of a sad clown once. His face was all painted in color, even his frown lines are invisible, all we saw was a big grin, but his eyes said it all. They were not glowing despite the smile. It was at that moment that I truly believe that eyes are the windows to someone’s soul.

So, now, if you ask me why I love photography so much lately even more than writing, the answer is easy. It’s because through this lens that I’m most honest. I can deceive you with my words when I write. I can say that something is truly fictional when it’s not. I can bend the truth with my ten fingers striking the keyboard. But eventhough I choose which parts of life I want to capture with my lens, it’s you who decide how you want to see it. I can always take pictures of smiling people, trying to deliver a message that they’re living a picture-perfect life, but you can always see through their eyes.

With this lens, I finally feel that I’m not such a hypocrite anymore.


7 Responses to “It’s Through This Lens That I’m Most Honest”

  1. kiky Says:

    Ngga ada galery online? Di flickr?FN?

  2. Denta Says:

    Ya ampun mba Ika….
    semoga lewat blog ini semangat untuk menulis buku masih tetap membara… Masih tetap ditunggu lho tulisan2nya… Kenapa hasil jepretannya nggak ditampilkan di buku-bukumu?…

  3. Denta Says:

    Ok ok…antara taking pictures dengan tweeter, mana yang lebih bikin nggak konsentrasi untuk menulis ? ;p

  4. t,w, Says:

    tp tetep akan bikin buku lg kan, Ka ?
    kasian tuh buku AVYW + Divortiare di rumah udah pada lecek keseringan bolak-balik dibaca 🙂

  5. Ika Natassa Says:

    denta and tw, gw tetep nulis kok 😉

  6. lvrosa Says:

    mad about photography and love writing so much :p want it all.

    what i want is .. combining both of them.
    and i was much more difficult to paint the words of ‘feeling’ in to a photograph than writing them into my long..long blog posting.

    and i havent found the way to make my photos being more ‘talkative’, lol.

    it was a nice experience, reading your blog.
    keep writing, keep on ‘nge-jepret’ yuukkkkk :p

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