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.
Bali as seen by photographer Mohamad Basuki.
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Mohamad Basuki (Bass) an Indonesian freelance photographer from Jakarta. I moved to Bali one year ago for a change of pace and to get away from the crazy traffic that Jakarta is so infamous for.
Photography is something I fell in love with 6 years ago after first being introduced to it by my former boss. After those first sessions, out in the field with camera in hand, I just couldn’t stop. I realized that through a lens I could see so some much more than I could see with just my own eyes. My camera developed into a tool that would later help me understand and appreciate life at a deeper, more meaningful level. I now use it to explore and share the Indonesian culture with others.
My background is marketing management so photographing Bali is something I do in my free time and I guess it’s a kind of release; something that helps me get back to my roots and remember my place in nature. It can be so refreshing to the soul because life can be so chaotic and, at times, move so rapidly; photography forces me to stop, reflect and appreciate the small things and I think we all need that sometimes.
What inspires your photography and you as a person?
I’m inspired by the simplicity of everyday life, capturing people’s emotions, experiences and energy. I’ve learnt that often the things we think are the simplest in life have the greatest story to tell and provide the deepest meaning to us – so in photography, this is where I tend to focus my attention.
There is always a special feeling when I take a photo and when I’m looking for a potential model, I always wait for the time when I feel their strongest energy level and emotions pouring through. It’s feelings and energy that I want to capture, not the photograph itself. It’s rewarding that once I’ve captured someone’s emotions in a photograph, that exact moment will never change – it can be shared, remembered and experienced by the world over and over again.
I think people feel all kinds of different things when they see a photograph, it doesn’t matter what exactly, as long as they sense emotion and a story behind the image. To me, the most important thing about a photograph is that it is captivating, draws the viewer in and makes us want to understand more about that person and their life.
I also think a photograph doesn’t always have to be attractive to the eye, especially in the traditional sense. Regardless of all the tricky techniques photographers use, I think that if you can’t sense the story behind the photo, then it is just another picture, perhaps beautiful, but maybe a little empty.
Where are your favourite places to capture photographs in Bali?
Deep in the village of Ubud
The centre of Ubud is an amazing place, but when I’m shooting, I like to get out of the main drag and head into the village where i can feel this beautifully genuine sense of community and spirit among the local people.
I feel a stronger energy in Ubud’s local villages up amongst the thick forest trees and rice patties. There is fresh crisp air you would never experience back home in Jakarta and a rich earthy aroma which creates a really lovely mood and atmosphere for natural photographs.
Tenganan Aga Village in the East Bali regency of Karangasem
This village is breathtakingly beautiful and, amazingly enough, many of the religious ceremonies and traditions that you’ll witness here are unique to this village alone, so you may never get a chance to experience it again.
The majority of the locals from the village still wear full traditional dress and although there is already a handful of arranged tours that reach this point, in general Tenganan village remains uninterrupted by tourism and the kind of rapid development we see happening further in the south.
Badung market early in the morning
I love to photograph this energetic market, especially early in the morning when everyone is buying fruit and preparing for the day ahead. Bali can sometimes seem a little too commercialised or materialistic but Badung market in Denpasar is very authentic, remains true to our way of life and always brings me back down to earth.
Here, I can always capture quality photographs that paints a picture of the Indonesian culture on an island that is becoming increasingly multicultural.
What’s the main lesson Bali has taught you?
Bali is a very blended place, more so than any other place in Indonesia. There is a lot of influence from other cultures and countries, but if you know where to look and what to pay attention to, you will be pleasantly surprised to see the normality and pride shown to everyday life.
This is one thing that is very honourable about the Balinese, that despite all these changes that have happened to their island, they still hold on to their culture tightly; openly carrying out religious ceremonies, prayer rituals and sacraments as if nothing has changed and no one is watching. I really respect that.
What’s the one quote you live by?
“I believe life is always testing us for our level of commitment and life’s greatest rewards are reserved for those who demonstrate a never-ending commitment to act until they achieve” Tony Robbins
I love this quote and i think it rings true in everything we do. Sometimes life is very challenging, it pushes us down to the dirt and will keep us there unless we have the will power to get up, hit it right back and shout to the world that we are worth more. Nothing in the world can stop someone with the resolve to act consistently until they achieve. As the saying rightly goes “the grip that nothing will detach will bring success”.
I always try to live my life with this quote in mind, remembering that no matter how hard something seems to achieve, the secret to success rarely lies in talent, but rather in resilience and an undying determination to make it.