Each year, the island of Bali is imprinted by the footprints of over 7.2 million human beings. About 4.2 million of them are locals and about 3 million of them are foreign tourists.
Despite all the commonalities and differences between these beings, one thing is for sure: they all have a different Bali story. Who they are, what they love, and what they see. In our series, From The Lens, we showcase the galleries of individuals who have stepped behind a lens and snapped Bali through their eyes.
From a local grom with a disposable camera, to a professional with the latest DSLR, with every Tom, Dick and Wayan in between.
Indonesia as seen by photographer Jez O’Hare
Who are you and what do you do?
I have Irish roots. My parents moved here in 1973 and my dad and brother are still living here. I went to the British School in Jakarta and then went to boarding school and university in the UK, where I studied Scientific Illustration and Photography. I became an Indonesian citizen in 1995.
I’ve been a photographer in Indonesia for 25 years and I am also a member of FASI, the Indonesian Aero Sport Federatio. I fly three kinds of aircraft; a trike, paramotor microlights and radio controlled drones.
What inspires your photography & you as a person?
Exploring and photographing Indonesia from the air, especially the east – Papua, Maluku, Sulawesi and Nusa Tenggara.
I’ll shoot almost anything on assignment, but my personal work is mostly aerial or landscape. Flying helps me go almost anywhere and the aerial perspective can describe the geography better. I love to fly microlights because sitting in an open cockpit you can see all around you and experience the flight and scenery more than in any other aircraft.
It’s often a sweaty process preparing on the ground, but just after take off the first thing we feel is the cool fresh air and the wet mist or clouds. Next it’s the details in the landscape and seeing people going about their lives, villages, farming patterns, even animals and birds.
As we go higher it gets really cold and the air gets thinner. My headset blocks out most of the engine noise and the radio is quiet most of the time. You’re on your own and it’s so peaceful. I feel so lucky to be there experiencing it, so I usually shoot photos and video to share with others.
Where are your favourite places to capture photographs in Bali?
I find most of Bali interesting to photograph, especially the nature and its unique traditions and religion. I love Bali in early morning or late afternoon light.
What’s the main lesson Bali has taught you?
I don’t know what exactly Bali has taught me, probably many things. I consider it a special island and it deserves a special respect. I did learn quite a lot from a friend who is a priest, he explained the religion really well to me a few years ago.
What’s the one quote you live by?
There is no one single quote I live by. I do too many things to rely on just one. As a lot of my life is spent preparing to fly or flying, there are three things I must remember. Respect your machine, respect yourself and respect mother nature. Basically, if you forget to respect these three things, you run the risk of crashing and dying. There are so many things that can go wrong.
“Be prepared” is the boy’s scouts motto. That’s also a good one, especially for flying.
For daily life, I always thought the Desiderata poem by Max Ehrmann is good to remind ourselves of how to live well, but I don’t read it all the time. It’s hanging on my office wall.
“Go placidly amidst the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.”
Where did you first get the idea of aerial photos?
My first aerial assignment using a helicopter was in 1990. After a few mind blowing trips flying across Java and from Lombok to Flores, I wished I could do it more often, but helicopter rides are expensive, especially on personal trips.
Fixed wing aircraft are cheaper to rent but most fly too fast for low altitude shots and have obstacles like wing struts or small windows to shoot from. So one day in 1994-95, I bought a kit planes magazine and to my surprise there were tiny ultralight aircrafts for sale that I could afford. So I ordered my first paramotor; it’s simply an engine you strap on your back and use a paraglider wing to get lift.
To see more of Jez O’Hare’s stunning photography visit his website.