The Jakarta Post
Focus: Dzoel maintains a steady composure while taking photos. (JP/P. J. Leo)
“Don’t look at me, just examine the photos I’ve shot,” said photographer Achmad “Bang Dzoel” Zulkarnain, when he first met with The Jakarta Post in Jakarta recently.
“I’m delving into photography. I only want my pictures to be seen as my creative products without associating them with my condition,” Dzoel, who is affectionately dubbed “Bang Dzoel Koplak” (Crazy Bro Dzoel) by his photographic community peers in Banyuwangi, East Java, added.
Dzoel, accompanied by Agus, a staffer from the Darwis Triadi School of Photography, recently visited camera and gadget distribution company Datascrip in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta, to have his camera serviced.
He was also invited by the school to study photography especially for fashion and modeling shoots. Datascrip lent him a camera and lens to enable him to carry out his activity.
Born in Banyuwangi on Oct. 7, 1992, Dzoel has been engaged in photographic work for the last several years with good results despite his physical condition.
The youngest of three siblings, with two sisters having perfect limbs, Dzoel has even managed to self-fund college.
“I first worked for some time in Surabaya as a motivator for Helen Keller International Indonesia, a non-government institute for the blind, before returning home to join a cybercafé and a musical group, Almumtaz, with fellow graduates of Banyuwangi’s extraordinary junior high school as members,” Dzoel said.
At the café, Bang Dzoel began to show an interest in photography.
No limits: Standing less than one meter tall as a result of impaired limbs, photographer Achmad “Bang Dzoel” Zulkarnain proves that there are no limits to achieving one’s dreams. (JP/P. J. Leo)
His curiosity about the art further grew and he was even more eager to snap as he held a camera borrowed from a colleague.
From then on, he and his peers started photographing residents applying for official identity cards.
In 2013, Dzoel met Wahyudi, a law office owner who also often gave religious lectures to his Almumtaz band.
“I was later employed in his law office. After earning my monthly pay, I was capable of furthering my college studies and helping my parents,” he recalled.
He was then able to buy his own camera and accessories on credit.
During vacations, Dzoel explored photography on a self-taught basis with his peers by handling various projects. To attract customers wishing to use his services, Dzoel posted his pictures on Facebook and other social media.
Prospective clients, initially doubting Dzoel’s talent, eventually sought his photographic services for birthday parties, wedding anniversaries, pre-wedding sessions, wedding ceremonies and various other occasions after seeing the quality of his work.
By the end of 2015, Dzoel took leave of absence from his studies and resigned from the office after his mother passed away from breast cancer, while continuing his photographic business.
Dzoel’s passion and high-quality photography began to bear fruit as he received more and more recognition as a photographer in the local, national and even international scenes.
His serious efforts in practicing his craft in his hometown of Banyuwangi earned him an invitation in 2016 from Jakarta’s Metro TV to appear on a talk show.
Watch and learn: Photographer Darwis Triadi (left) shares some snaps with Dzoel. (JP/P. J. Leo)
Aljazeera TV then followed by visiting Dzoel in Banyuwangi in April 2017. Other TV stations have also arranged programs for Dzoel during his visit to Jakarta.
Some photographic communities outside Banyuwangi have also invited Dzoel to join their activities, such as Cinnamon Equal Photography, which organized a photo competition for the disabled on Aug. 17 in Bandung, West Java.
Senior fashion photographer Darwis Triadi, one of the judges in the competition, was surprised to see Dzoel holding a camera with his impaired arms.
“Committee personnel said the disabled man walking past my table was Dzoel, a photographer from Banyuwangi,” Darwis said.
“After being introduced, I asked Dzoel, ‘can you take pictures?’ he replied, ‘yes sir.’ ‘Now give me a snap’ and the result, wow, it was amazing,” he added.
For Darwis, Dzoel’s perseverance in the pursuit of this art with his disability should be supported because in his view photography is a way of life rather than just a profession.
Therefore, Darwis decided to impart broader photographic knowledge by inviting Dzoel to study in his school. The other aim is to preclude any marginalization of Dzoel and people with disabilities.
Future invitations to Dzoel include a touring workshop to senior high schools in Surabaya mid-November for an introduction to photography, and a workshop on photography in Hong Kong to give an overview of the art to Indonesian migrant workers.
Dzoel is planning to hold a photo exhibition featuring his fellow Banyuwangi junior high school graduates and Almumtaz band members.
“I am going to display my handicapped friends and peers in their independent activities so as to draw the government’s attention to the disabled group,” Dzoel said.