In 2010, Ichsan Rahmanto developed an interest in photography in general. It didn’t take him long to find out that his background in cultural anthropology made him a perfect match for street photography.
Ichsan is currently working towards getting his masters in cultural anthropology. This has made him a keen observer of cultures and people, and has given him many insights into what makes them tick. Ichsan is an excellent photographer who enjoys learning new photography techniques and putting his studies to use to give viewers an interesting twist on the day to day goings-on in Indonesia.
Ichsan graciously agreed to share with us some of his inspirations and insights into the world of street photography. Read on to find out how he uses his gift to help people everywhere reflect on who they are.
Can you tell us a little about yourself plus anything else you would like us to know.?
I’m Ichsan Rahmanto. I am 22 years old and a student in the cultural anthropology department. I live in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
I became interested in photography for the first time in 2010. At that time, I was using a film camera. Back then, I was searching for my niche and experimenting with all photography genres. I came across street photography when my friend showed me some photographs by Andre Kertesz and Henri Cartier Bresson. Immediately, I started learning about street photography and documentary photography because those genres require keen observation and interaction with people, which is not so different from my background as an anthropologist.
How would you describe your style of street photography?
That’s a hard question, but for me, street photography is a form of media that reflects ourselves. For that reason, I am concerned about the process, how to go about making the photos, not just the photograph as a final result.
Where do you typically shoot on the street?
In public spaces, wherever they are. Right now, mostly around my campus since I spend a lot of time there studying.
I’m fascinated by the fact that you study Cultural Anthropology. How does your expertise in the field influence your photography and how is it displayed in your work?
When anthropologists are in the field, they observe, communicate, and participate with subjects, all at the same time. The way anthropologists observe something, try to build arguments, I think it’s just the same with what street photographers do. So, I use the anthropology method (i.e. deep observation) in my work, and it means I have to think before I shoot.
If someone were to visit your city where would you tell them are your favorite street photography locations and why?
At the Zoo on a holiday, because there are many people spending time with their loved ones.
What other types of photography do you enjoy?
In general, I enjoy all types of photography, but specifically, documentary photography.
Where do you get your inspiration and what drives you each day?
Curiosity. I never know what is happening out there, and maybe there is something I’ve never seen in the city.
I get inspiration mostly from books and movies.
What do you do when you get the feeling that there’s nothing new to shoot?
Nothing new means lack of references, so I read more, observe more.
Who is your biggest influence in terms of your photography?
My friend, Hernung. In fact, I dedicated most of my work to her.
What is the creative process you go through to create your work and what tools do you use? In particular I really like the gritty look of some of your photos. How do you accomplish that if it’s something beyond shooting with high ISO.
Now I use a digital SLR and for post processing ACD See Pro 7. For film, I just scan it and process with the same software.
Yes, some of my pictures look gritty because it was from film and scanned. But for the digital ones, I intentionally set my camera to a high ISO or add some noise effect during post-processing. For me, noise or high ISO effects increase the impressions. I want to show to the spectators that they can feel the picture without touching it but by just taking a look at it. Technically speaking, it is part of how to build the symbolic relation between photographers, photographs and spectators.
What advice or tips can you give to someone who is new to street photography?
Learning by doing. Street photography requires deep observation that can be achieved by practicing. And of course, don’t forget to read and watch movies.
Where has your work been exhibited or published?
So far, I have joined two exhibitions at Gadjah Mada University about rural economic themes and urban style themes. I would like to hold my own exhibition as soon as I finish my post-graduate study.
Please add anything else about you and your photography that you feel would be of interest to our readers.
I never stop learning in photography; the goal is not to make nice pictures or to be famous, but to reflect on ourselves for better understanding.
I took this photo one morning at my campus. I was simply interested in her shadow, which moved along with her pace.
He’s one of my campus security guards. I once argued in an academic writing that one’s working conditions determine one’s behaviour. This was part of my research regarding that writing.
A woman lighting up her goods with a small, paper-covered lamp. We sometimes overlook this kind of surreal, albeit common, scene that happens in our daily life, like the one in this picture. We wouldn’t even stop by to imagine how one’s head could glow, just like hers.
Just like the previous “security guard” picture, I was observing his workspace, which renders him unable to move from his seat. He had to sit there for some time.
This is my research partner with our host on the background. We stayed at her house for two weeks during our research in highland Java.
Among my other works, I think this is one, which I am quite fond of. It depicts people’s activities around Kapuas Riverside in West Kalimantan. A kid was walking while a woman was doing laundry in the afternoon. The sunlight casts their shadow and silhouette so clearly. In the afternoon, the people there usually clean themselves after a day’s work and they go home afterwards to rest.
She was a waitress at a certain coffee house in Yogyakarta. Her gaze is very captivating, for it shows a deep exhaustion, yet we can see another waiter in the background, enjoying his rest.
This is a picture of students playing during a break between classes. It is in this time when students can play or do whatever they like.
“Wayang Antro” (lit. “Anthropology’s shadow puppet”) is an annual performance art piece by the students of my department. This is them gathering after a successful show. Other people took pictures of them up close, but I chose to take it from a height. For me, a picture can tell interesting stories when it’s snapped from a different angle.