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Darwis Triadi: Capturing the human spirit through photography

Sebastian Partogi
Sebastian Partogi

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Mon, July 17, 2017 | 04:02 pm
Darwis Triadi: Capturing the human spirit through photography

Senior photographer Darwis Triadi has an eye for the interactions between light and the inner human psyche. (JP/Arief Suhardiman)

Senior photographer Darwis Triadi, 63, who is mostly known for his fashion and celebrity photography, is currently preparing for his next exhibition, Ini Wajah Autoimun (The face of autoimmune disease), in cooperation with the Indonesian Scleroderma and Psoriatic Arthritis foundations.

Both foundations play an active role in raising public awareness of autoimmune diseases. An autoimmune disease is a condition that arises from an abnormal immune response to healthy parts of the body, causing an attack on the latter instead of on foreign antigens. There are at least 80 types of autoimmune diseases, including lupus, multiple sclerosis, scleroderma and psoriasis, among others.

The exhibition will be held from July 22 to 23 at the Grand Indonesia Shopping Town’s West Mall and will feature photographs of 16 people who have autoimmune diseases.

According to Darwis, such exhibitions are important to familiarize people with autoimmune diseases, including information on symptoms, diagnosis and mechanisms to survive it.

This is not the first health-related project for Darwis. “Previously, I photographed a breast cancer community [for a 2015 exhibition]. Although you’re capturing people who are ill, you have to expend a special energy to depict their spirit. I don’t want to capture pictures, which show sadness; I want to show how, despite their illnesses, these people still engage in daily life,” Darwis told The Jakarta Post during an interview on Thursday in Jakarta.

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He said that to photograph people, techniques alone were not enough; photographers must also be sensitive to the mental states of their subjects, while emitting a positive energy to the subjects so they appear beautiful in the photographs.

“It is challenging to photograph people who are sad or have lots of problems [during a photoshoot]. You have to make them comfortable and give them positive energy so they will look attractive and beautiful in the pictures,” he explained.

Before taking up photography, Darwis studied at the Indonesian Aviation Academy (STPI) in Curug, Tangerang, Banten, from 1975 to 1978. After working as a pilot for two years, he left the profession to pursue a career in photography.

He spent a few years learning about lighting techniques at various photography schools in Switzerland and Germany from 1981 to 1983 and photographed a number of Indonesian celebrities in the 1990s, most notably singers Krisdayanti and Yuni Shara.

He has also published a number of books on photography techniques, including Emosi sebuah foto (Emotions in a photograph, 2015).

Techniques for interacting with subjects as well as meticulous lighting techniques are shared by Darwis and a number of instructors at a school he set up in 2002, Darwis Triadi School of Photography, which is now located on Jl. Pattimura, Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta.

Since it was established in 2002, the school has produced more than 16,000 photography graduates, across all ages and professions.

“We start the course with theory, but when students come into my class, I tell them to close all their books and start discussing the essence of photography, which is light. Then we practice using daylight and shadows,” he said, adding that around 60 to 70 percent of his time was currently dedicated to teaching.

According to Darwis, nowadays, thanks to technological advancements, anyone can learn photography techniques through tutorials via internet platforms such as YouTube. People now also love documenting their activities in photographs, which they upload on social media or other internet platforms.

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“Many amateur photographers have mastered excellent techniques, however, a lot of professional photographers do not have such good technical abilities. So I predict that in terms of service fees, photographers’ value will decline in the next few years,” he said.

In times like this, strong quality and a reputable name will be two variables that help professional photographers survive, according to Darwis.

For his upcoming work, Darwis will collaborate with fashion designer Vera Anggraini of Vera Kebaya, who designs different variations of kebaya (traditional Indonesian female attire) from the country’s westernmost corner of Sabang in Aceh, Sumatra, to its easternmost point in Merauke, Papua.

A photobook to accompany the project is slated for publication in November or December. Vera, meanwhile, will conduct a fashion show in August to showcase her designs.

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