A Family Man and a Political/ Social Mobile Artist
Enrico Soekarno: A Family Man and a Political/ Social Mobile Artist by Fletch
JUXT Rewind: Originally posted on January 31, 2012
Let me introduce to you one of my favourite IG follows – @bungkarno (Enrico Soekarno). The monicker @bungkarno is taken from Soekarno, Indonesia’s founding father’s nickname to the people of Indonesia. Enrico was born on the sixth day of the six month of the year sixty six; now I’m not a numerologist but there has to be something auspicious about that – or at least he has to be slightly evil right? But no that couldn’t be further from the truth. Enrico is a talented artist in many mediums who has very strong political ideals, and has been active in getting behind many causes.
Enrico’s images all have a dark beauty to them that demand the viewer to stop and have a longer look at them, rather than going tap tap and moving on. Like many other people on IG, Enrico is a family man who squeezes in mobile photography wherever he can in his daily life. And isn’t that the beauty of mobile photography and the associated apps?
J: Jason E: Enrico
J: Ok, lets gets something out of the way before we start. When we bumped into each other on IG you had just posted an image with some Rolling Stone lyrics as the caption, which was what made me initially take notice of your stream. So first question; what’s your pro Rolling Stones album?
E: I love the fact that you opened this with The Stones man and I love that pic of yours with the Sister Morphine quote too! But it is a very difficult question as there are so many great ones… So I will just tell you my favorite Rolling Stones period if that’s okay? It is the decade from the second last album with Brian Jones (Beggar’s Banquet – 1968) to the second first album with Ron Wood (Some Girls – 1978)… PS: But if you truly insist on having just one, then I would have to say Exile On Main St.
J: It sounds like you have been around and travelled quite a bit in the past, where do you call home these days?
E: Well yes I came from a mix parentage of Latvian mother and Indonesian father who met in Australia. And they loved to travel, so as kids my sister and I were quite lucky to visit various parts of the world and I’m sure this need to see the world rubbed off on me all the way to adulthood! I also did some schooling in Sydney and Rome but what I call home these days is Jakarta in Indonesia, a country so beautiful but still trying to find itself in such a sad way though!
J: What does a day in the life of Enrico entail, what is your typical day?
E: This almost always entails getting the kids set for school, get my daily dose of Luwak & Arabica mix then check IG to see previous night’s posts that I missed (pure addict behavior) ha ha ha… Then do some drawings or paintings. In the afternoon usually there are some meetings which always involve getting stuck in traffic jams and that’s where I usually do my edits! Then of course post the pic if I find Wi-Fi… Then back home I would do the kids’ homework, play with them a bit, pull out my ‘stash’, edit another pic, check IG again, and post another ha ha ha… In the evenings my wife and I usually go see movies or find gigs after reading the kids their bed-time stories. Damn I just realized that IG plays such a big part of my life after writing the above! Have to reduce this somehow
J: So what led you to Mobile Photography? Have you always had an interest in photography, or are you like many others who have recently converted once they discovered the camera on their phone?
E: Well I’ve always had a Mac, from the first one, graduating to the Quadra, even the first clone Power Computing, all the way to the G5, so when Apple released a phone it’s only natural that I have the first one too, getting it in Hong Kong and hacking it to work with an Indonesian provider… I use the iPhone 4 now, not sure if I need to get the 4S or wait for the 5… Anyway, my point is, like anything Apple, it’s only a matter of time before some feature of their products take over the world right? Even before the apps got so good and so numerous I’ve already taken pictures with my iPhone…
And yes I’ve always had an interest in photography and I’ve had several photography exhibitions, though not an iPhoneography one yet! With all those amazing editing apps available these days, who needs a dark room to experiment? But let me state for the record, that I’m not a professional photographer, I usually take pictures of interesting things only to be used as a drawing reference later when there is no time to sketch… And now Mobile Photography has certainly changed my perception, in that every time I take a picture I will always also think of what might look good later for editing!
J: Your photos are extremely dark; dark to the point where viewers have to sometimes really take a long look to see what is really going on within them. They remind me of the old day-for-night movie technique, where they used to fake night scenes by underexposing the film. What led you to this style of photography, is there a story behind it?
E: I’m not sure if there’s a story behind them but I’ve always been drawn to Existentialism and all the other dark philosophers from a very young age and it’s true that I always under expose my shots, at least two stops usually. I’m not sure why but if I think about it, all the films, photography, art and music that I like are all dark! And as you can also see in my drawings, the black / dark parts play such a major role… Or it could just be because of the triple six in my birth date ha ha ha…
But the great point you made is that the dark make people look closer and that’s the point isn’t it? To engage the viewer to look deeper and contemplate. That’s why my drawings are so small, also to pull one viewer at a time to look closer…
This is one of my personal favorites as the edit turned out like an old surreal painting I thought. I just basically took a part of the picture, enlarged it and added it on the top left corner as a layer in FilterStorm using add exposure, then for the rest used a lot of tone mapping in FilterStorm and sharpening in Photo Wizard, and the little bits of colour was obtained in PlasticBullet.
J: Again, your photos have a distinct look and feel to them. Do you have standard set of apps and editing process that you run them through, or are you still experimenting with them?
E: Of course I’m still learning and experimenting! Sometimes I read people’s comments and learn about the existence of new apps, check them out, if the user interface and the effects are good I keep using them and if not I toss them. But of course there is a process that I always go through and that this process always involve two of my favourite apps, FilterStorm and ScratchCam! And in between those two, there could be a great number of other apps like SnapSeed, PlasticBullet, Blender and PhotoWizard, and of course lots and lots of layers. Sometimes you can see it and sometimes you don’t ha ha ha… But I imagine myself like an old Renaissance master doing glazing techniques!
J: What would you say are the major influences on your work, does it come from other photographer’s, artists, literature, music, or does it come from other sources?
E: I think I’ve covered it a little in that dark answer above, but yes of course, like one’s character, one’s work I’m sure is shaped by everything one have absorbed in one’s life. So yes, Cartier-Bresson, Adams, Salgado, Drtikol, Man Ray, Nachtwey, Motuloh, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Munch, Piranesi, Bosch, Escher, Camus, Borges, Marquez, Kafka, Kundera, Eco, Chomsky, Pilger, The Glimmer Twins, Cave, Waits, Joy Division, The Clash, Sylvian, to name a few from the top of my head, and of course my name-sake Soekarno, the political situation, The Dalai Lama and Buddhism all can be an influence and a source…
J: Would it be fair to say that many of your photos have a political or social commentary to them, and is this something that you feel strongly about?
E: Yes it’s fair to say to say that Fletch. I have always been surrounded and made aware of injustice and suffering throughout the world. My mother’s country was invaded by Stalin and my own country was ruled by a dictator for more than 32 years! In fact my whole thing about exclusively doing black and white drawings was originally a political statement after witnessing the Santa Cruz massacre in East Timor back in 1991! Did some stuff exposing the big wigs in government during the forest fires in Borneo too, resulting in some censorship and arrest, and now trying to contest the almighty power of China helping the Tibetans in my own little way, all contributes to this thing you call social commentary I suppose… I do strongly feel that we must do whatever we can, in any capacity we can, whenever we can to help people who don’t have a voice, even if it’s only in art or in photography! PS: But mind you, I do also have photos that are just pure personal expressionism, playing with layers and tints to convey moods, and even family stuff, edits of my kids and wife
It’s cool you chose this photo of my son playing with a very tiny rubber boat in my parents’ pool! I also like this one because of the platinum tones generated from various layers from ScratchCam. And again I just took a part of the picture, enlarged it and added it surrounding the tiny boat to make it look as if he’s riding a giant space ship, of course in FilterStorm.
J: Do you have a routine for going out and taking photos, or do you just let it happen naturally and snap stuff as it pops up in your daily life?
E: No, I don’t really have a routine for going out and taking photos, I prefer to let it happen naturally, like that picture of the bent old man pushing a cart of huge bamboo with The Stones’ caption… I was walking the dogs with the kids and I saw this man appearing from the corner, told the kids to stop, stepped on the leash and took my shot as he passes, it was beautiful! I think I prefer it like that man! Unless of course, there’s some challenge, assignment or project!
This one both you and I like so much right? And not just for the Beggars Banquet reference! I’ve actually talked about this shot to your question about letting shots happen naturally. I was walking the dogs with the kids one afternoon when I saw the ends of giant bamboos appearing from the corner of the street, with a bent down old man pushing them loaded on a bicycle, so I told the kids to stop, stepped on the leash of my dog and took the shot as he passes. There was hardly any edit on this one, just a couple of layers on FilterStorm to darken the wall behind and the road below.
J: There are a lot of different styles of photographers who are posting images on Instagram, is there a particular style of photography that you are drawn to, and are there any other IGers doing good things that we should be aware of?
E: No, there’s no particular style that I’m drawn to on IG, as long as it’s good, at least to mind’s eye, I follow! You can see in my ‘following’ section, the diversity of the people I follow. But I can tell you that there are only two people on IG I have personally called The Master, @omde and @kireji. I’m sure they don’t have enough followers as compared to some, and what about YOU man? Your photos are great and one of your photo was voted Wired’s Top Ten Photo! And you also don’t have enough followers as compared to some! Actually this is the one thing I don’t get about IG, I’ve seen accounts with zero photo and they have followers, accounts with only photos of their feet with thousands of followers and accounts of great photographs with hardly any followers ha ha ha…
I must admit I’m a little confused, I look and your photos on Instagram and I see a serious artist full of angst. Then I read your comments and responses to other people and I see a friendly, fun guy who sounds like he enjoys a beer and a good laugh. So how would you describe yourself?
Ha ha ha good one! Did you read that article from The Indonesian Observer called Angst-ridden Art on my website? The journalist also said “his effervescence is in sharp contrast to the dark, somber sketches that comprises his artwork”, and was also a little confused! It’s a hard one to answer my man! It could just be that I have a dichotomous personality being a Gemini ha ha ha… But maybe, now that you made me think about it, it’s a method I learnt from The Dalai Lama, to internalize my angst and grievances with the social situation, transform and channel it into art and project only good energy when dealing with reality, a sort of artist’s meditation if you will. PS: Yes, I do enjoy my beer, bourbon and the good laugh!
J: So what’s next for you, where do you see this going? Is Mobile Photography something that you can see yourself pursuing seriously, or is it just something that complements your other artistic pursuits?
E: Well Kodak died right? Although I still have my trusted companion from High School, the FM 2, I hardly ever use it as, at least in this country, you can’t buy film or find a proper black and and white printers anymore! So yes the future is iPhoneography and I’m glad to be a part of it, and once I’ve amassed enough body of work I wouldn’t mind having an exhibition. But also the other logical thing for me is to do drawings or paintings based on my edits from IG! Could be interesting, no? PS: the other beautiful thing about the Mobile Photography community is the sense of egalitarianism I think, where else would you find a photographer giving you his or her photograph and letting you do whatever you want to it? Ha ha ha…
J: What makes Enrico get up in the morning, what keeps you going?
E: This is the easy one! To wake up and smell the coffee! To see the kids and to create!
J: I’m particularly drawn to one of your images – “The Revolution Will Be Brought Live…” This is an interesting photo on a couple of levels. It seems to have both a political and religious look to it simultaneously, and it also has your signature feel of darkness and mystery. What can you tell us about this shot, where was it taken and what is happening here?
E: How very perceptive of you man! This was a religious procession, in a small town called Singkawang on the western tip of Borneo. But when this group started running trying to beat rival groups to the temple and this other photographer jumped into the middle of them, things became so chaotic it was almost a riot. And that’s why when I edited this I needed the word revolution somewhere in the title.
The edit was a very simple one I think, a lot of darkening for the figures and lightening for the smoke in FilterStorm, run the result a couple of times through ScratchCam, and layered the resulting images with add exposure in FilterStorm again with various percentages…
Thanks Jason! Or thanks Fletch I should say…
Juxt thanks you both for your art and words.