Visual Musings: Indonesia and the Portrait of a Thousand Faces

We encounter countless strangers in our daily commutes to work, the gym, to restaurants and pubs. On most occasions, we pass them by without notice. We are too busy, too shy, or simply don't care. 

But what if we didn't? What if instead we made an effort to see, to smile, or even engage in conversation? What would we see, and would it change us?

My Indonesian street odysseys were the perfect environments to explore these musings.

I have said that photojournalism/street photography is my looking glass into the world. It reminds me to stop and observe, to engage with the world around me. It helps me care.

Indonesia challenged me to consider a new dimension to this photography paradigm: the portrait of a stranger. On every street corner, people eagerly offered a greeting or shared a moment of their day with me. Their faces bore experience, struggle, joy, perseverance and hope. When I was bold enough to pause and interact, they were always excited and gracious to respond.

Indonesia was inspiring in many ways. Perhaps most surprisingly, however, was my newfound desire to engage these wonderful strangers on a more intimate level. Introverts are not supposed to have such desires! Nonetheless, throughout my journey I found myself seeking purposeful engagement with individuals around me, and trying to capture their spirit and narrative through the lens. This opened new avenues for insight, inspiration and reflection. It helps me care … about people.

This photo essay commences a new and exciting adventure in my visual musings: street portraiture. At its best, street portraiture retains the spontaneity and raw authenticity of street photography while capturing the essence of the individual and the moment. A face can evoke a powerful emotional response; it can tell a thousand stories.

When done well, portraits showcase the beauty, joy, adventure, and grit that are inherent in the human spirit. At the same time, street portraiture challenges us to recognize inequality, social injustice, and other difficult circumstances on an individual level. A concept is easy to ignore; a face is not.  Portraits remind us that our response to the world and its citizens should always overflow with grace, generosity and love.

I hope these street portraits provide a glimpse of the extraordinary character and spirit of the people I encountered in Indonesia. And hopefully it can remind us that, even amid our daily routines and busy schedules, there are fascinating and wonderful people all around us. 

Enjoy.

In my next post, get a sense of place for some of these faces with a visual sojourn to their hometown, Lubuklinggau in Life on the Street in Lubuklinggau.

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