Saturday, December 26, 2009

Photographic Metonymy

All photographs are metonymy [of the things they represent] and should be seen and treated as such.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Streets

In its candidness, street photography is an uninhibited impression of the every day life as it is unfolding in public places. Yes, I said "uninhibited" - the very word that I think accutely describes the approach that the photographer takes, the setting, and the subject's unaltered state of being.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Photography Is Cheap

Photography is cheap. In technical terms at least, anything about it is replicable. So, unless it is dedicated to something larger and more essential than itself, it is bound to become just another modern triviality.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

No Title - NT

Sometimes it's best to leave a photograph without a title and let the audience be free to interpret it as they wish just as sometimes we - photographers - do not have the explicit reason why we take that photograph other than because we like it and strongly feel about it.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Lure of the Mannequins

Mannequins are lifeless figures, we all know. But they are almost always perfect: from head to toe, they are shaped to match the images of perfection. They are like magnets in our own minds about what we want to be - pulling us to the border of the underworld where consciouness is put to the back seat and primordial emotions are taking control: spend, spend, spend ...

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Echoe is a familiar word to many of us. You know, it's like what happens when you shout to a solid wall and hear your own voice being repeated.

I was told that the word came from the Greek mythology. Echoe was the name of a talkative oread (mountain nymph) who loved her own voice very much. She was punished by Hera - Seuz' wife - for preventing her from catching her husband's love affairs with the other nymphs by taking away her voice. From then on Echo could only foolishly repeat another's shouted words.

What does it have to to with these photos?

For one, it's their titles: Echo 1 and Echo 2.

The rest is not my right to say. Let them speak for themselves.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Daily Dose of Excitement

What do they say about photographers?

They can't live a day without taking pictures. They need it like they need the air they breathe.

To me, it's more like a daily dose of excitement that keeps me ticking. It gives me the relief from boredom that I sometimes feel.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Peanut World: Photo Hunting Reconsidered

If you are not a full time photographer, chances are that there are times when you just feel that you don't have the time to really go out and hunt for and make photographs. But think again. Photographs are everywhere for you to pick up at will. All you need to do is change your paradigm about a photograph and the way you think about it.

All things can be photographed. Good or bad is the next question. But good or bad are also categorical. There are general criteria for good photographs (although many would not care to think about the bad ones). And even then, these filters don't apply across the board. What's good in one may not be that good in another. Three things, I think, play a very significant role: genre, taste, and cultural setting.

I'll safe the lengthy discussion of those somewhat more complicated arguments for later time. For now, let's get back to the basic premise: anything can be photographed. And that anything is anywhere as long as there is light, for photography is impossible without light. And as I said earlier, all you need to do is change your attitude. Once that happens, you can start exploring - using whatever you have and know about photograph-making.

Snapshooting may be the first step. Let it go. Release your creative energy. Kick out all inhibitions about going happy and shooting at will. Photography is cheap now that the digital technology has made it possible to take and discard photographs without much financial consequences. Once you get heated up and the creative energy is overflowing, start paying attention to details, elements, light, and what's possible under the circumstances. That - in my experience - is when satisfying photographs (I'm not talking about good here) begin to come your way.

All those "procedures" can take place anywhere and anytime. The "Peanut World" above was made at the peak of boredome at the workplace. It was a short round of snapshooting before I began to focus and "saw" and "picked" satisfying photographs.

©Eki Akhwan 2009
PS. I did nothing to edit the photograph, except turning it into black and white and resizing it. The 16:9 ratio format is camera-original.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blue-Dotted Tap

Sometimes we pass an object too many times before it attracts our attention.

Ordinary objects do not in themselves have the "mouth" to shout and tout themselves to us. But they do speak in their own ways and frequencies. So, it's us who have to adjust our "ears" to their language and frequencies.

This kind of fine-tuning is not a one shot thing. It's a process. It's continuous. It never does take place automatically. There has to be a deliberate attempt to make our "ears" capable of catching their whispers, their voices, however muted they are.

I know it's strange to talk about photography in auditory terms. But change the word "mouth" with light or sight, and "ears" with eyes or vision, then you have all you need to do with image-making.

Friday, October 9, 2009


You might want to smirk (smugly smile) at this photo: a color snapshot of a mixture of things that seems unrelated except for the fact that they are up in the sky, billboards of some sort, and a jumble of cables and poles.

Yes, it's obviously not that kind of photos that you'd see in an art gallery (at least not one that I've ever seen) or one that has won a photo contest; it's not even a photo of human interests or of a beautiful scene that's so pleasant to look at in an instant. But I like it, if only for the sheer joy it gave me in making it.

It was a spontaneous flow that moves from they eye to my heart and senses and fingers and that split-second time that it took to freeze it in this frame. It probably feels like Cartier-Bresson's decisive moment, only that it is not about an unfolding event whose minutiae elements of motion are so crucial to follow, of which only one is the maker of the decision of whether it is a successful or fail picture (hence the decisive moment). It's just IT, and I like it.

The unrully lines, the rigid geometry of the rectangles and squares, the colors ... Without realizing it in the first place, I might have sensed a harmony in this seemingly hodgy-podgy scene. I was walking, pointing my camera at some other things on the street when I looked up and spontaneously moved my arms and finger to freeze what I saw, forgetting the other things I was so intent on finding and capturing just seconds before.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Election # 02

Polling station witnesses at the recent presidential election.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Photographic Representation and Interpretation

Contrary to the commonly-held popular belief (or common sense, if you like), a photograph is NOT a representation of objects or scenes, no matter how faithful the images on it may seem. It is an interpretation (or a set of interpretations) of objects and scenes.

The process of interpretation in the production of a photograph is complex and involves different phases that begin even long before a photographer pushes his camera button.

First, let's not forget that a photographer is never born in a cultural vacuum. That is to say that he/she has undergone a long process of cultural programming before he/she even knows how to take a picture. This so called cultural programming includes - but not limited to - the way he/she sees, orders or maps, and values things in his/her mind. Seen in this perspective, a photographic composition is thus never just a mechanical question of formulaic exactness. A lot of subtle and soft-programmed elements are involved and can be traced back in it.

Second, aside from the soft or cultural proramming, a photographer also operates on the knowledge-based level of consciousness when making a photograph. This includes the use of his/her overt and mechanical knowledge of composition, of light, of geometric elements, of subject choice, et cetera that are important in making a photograph.

Like any empirical knowledge, photograph-making know-how may be learned and copied across cultural milieux and as such may - on the surface at least - look neutral, that is regardless of who the person behind the camera is, the "mechanical traces" (that denote knowledge of compositional formulae, etc.) are there and may be universally used to judge and determine the goodness (i.e. qualitative values) of a photograph. But this neutral or neutralizing element never operates alone and out of contexts. The soft and cultural traces will always be imbued and embedded there. It is at this point, I think, that the aesthetic quality of a photograph are often disputed. What looks good to one may not be pleasing to another because different beholders have different sets of expectations.

Of course, we must also be cautious about making straight and rigid claims when it comes to the effect of soft or cultural programming on the production of a photograph. Although more difficult than that of overt knowlege, soft or cultural programming can also be acquired or instilled. Experiences with different and diverse cultural milieux are an important factor that can make one fluently conversant in different cultures and feel equally comfortable with expressing and appreciating different styles of aesthetic expressions.

Written by
Eki Qushay Akhwan
5 August, 2009

Representation here is defined as "something that stands in for something else"; whereas interpretation is "an attempt or set of attempts to communicate or make sense of things (ideas, objects, scenes, etc.).

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Photo Exploration # 35: Space Within Space # 2

I believe that the more elevated goal of photography is and should be to discover, reveal, and see what the ordinary eyes and mind-eye miss.

In photography, recording and reproducing images are not enough simply because such things can easily fall within the realm of what I call "the mechanical optic" or the mechanical vision".

Discovering, revealing, and seeing what the ordinary eyes and mind-eye miss require more than just glancing or moving your vision superficially across fields and subjects; more than that, you need to penetrate into the very soul that moves your awareness and sense of geometric interplay that provides meanings and dynamic representations of experiential realities.

Such a penetration cannot be achieved mechanically - either by the gears you control or by rigid and schematic attitudes and approaches towards the fields and subjects. Rather, it should and can only be achieved by opening yourself widely to any possibilities and embracing them like you would when you hear a moving set of musical tunes that move you to spontaneously dance without questioning what, why, and how such things could transpire.

Ultimate enjoyment of revealing, discovering, and seeing the unseen comes from within with the externalities functioning only as a trigger that invites you to move in and be involved and emerged in the promising visual experiences that are presenting themselves at the right time and space.

Eki Qushay Akhwan
09 June, 2009

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Photo Exploration # 34: Space Within Space

Space, they say, does not have the boundaries; it's three-dimensional, and the very thing that makes it possible for objects and events to exist. Can that thing we see in the mirror be considered space?

If space is boundless, then it must be. But is the space within the mirror three-dimensional? Is it possible for objects and events to exist - to take place - within it?

Then, there is of course the question of the photograph itself. Is it space? If we stick to the physicist's definition of linear space, it can't be. It has boundaries, the frames. And it's only two-dimensional. However, the photographic "space" does make objects and events exist or can be created to exist.

Let's also consider space's fourth dimension that forms a continuum with time and hence is called spacetime. Now you have the very thing - contentious as it might be - that defines our perception of the universe.

Welcome to space within space.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Faces in The Crowd: Laughter

Faces in the crowd, they say, is a fascinating subject for the study of human nature. Photography makes it all possible.

This is JAGAT FOTOGRAFI's participation in this week's Photo Scavenger Hunters.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Photo Essay: The Barongsai Story

Hello, children! My name's Barongsai. I'm a lion. My ancesstors are from China. They were born about 2,300 years ago. They are pretty old, are they?

Yes, I look fierce. But look at my eyes ... You see ... I'm friendly.

That's why children like you adore me ..., do you?

By the way, I like eating envelopes that contain money, you see. They are called "Lay See" or "Huang Pao". Yummy! Feed me that ..., and I'll dance for you.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Monochrome Shadow: Reaching The Unreachable

JAGAT FOTOGRAFI is participating in Shadow Shot Sunday and Monochrome Monday. Please check out the links to see other participants' photos.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Monochrome Shadow (Shadow #005)

Participating in:
Shadow Shot Sunday &
Monochrome Monday

Please follow the link to check other participants' photos.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Shadow #004

This is just a snapshot from around my office on a sunny late afternoon and a Shadow Shot Sunday for everybody to enjoy.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Shadow #003

I have posted two photographs on this blog exploring the shadows before: here and here. This third post of shadow exploration is my first participation in the Shadow Shot Sunday (SSS) meme. To see other participants' photos exploring the beauty of shadows, please follow the link.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Color Harmony and The Production of Aesthetic Images (Part One)

"Our response to colours is complex, involving reactions at an emotional, subjective level to physical facts of light at different wavelengths." (Michael Freeman, 2005)

As common and ordinary as it is, color is a complex phenomenon. As the above quote aptly put it, discussing color is basically discussing about our response to it. That response may be scientific - as that made by physicists and/or chemists - or aesthetic - like that made by artists, designers, and photography practitioners like ourselves.

When it comes to the issue of the production and assessment of beauty, which I believe what aesthetic is essentially about, the nagging question about color is what makes certain combinations of colors harmonious or pleasing to look at?

Many of us (read: artists, designers, photographers, or even ordinary consumers or art works) would probably just say it's a gut instinct. We just know it and can feel it when a certain combination of colors is right. But this answer will of course be confusing to those who do not have the "talent" for that kind of gut or those who are learning to understand how colors work the magic in a pleasing composition. So what do aesthetic theories say about it?

According to art historian John Gage, the theory of harmony can be classified into four. The first of these views harmony as or in terms of scale, just like that of music. Then there are also theories that consider harmony in terms of complementary relations, resemblance in the level of brightness/value, and the psychological response given by the subjects. In addition to these, there are also others who say that hues and expectations may also play a significant role in the construction of what is considered to be a harmony.

That being explained, we may also ask another question, that is, if harmony is really the issue when it comes to composing colors (or other elements for that matter) in the making of beautiful images? Certainly art (including photographic art) is not just about harmony. As many art connoisseurs know, elements of discord can sometimes also play a role in the making of aesthetic objects. However, I don't think this is the right place to wage on this kind of argument. Let us just concentrate on the issue of what is pleasing about color composition.

Text and photo by Eki Akhwan

To be continued in the next part.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Photographing at Festivals: Faces in The Crowd

If you enjoy street and action photography, festivals are the place to go. Festivals offer actions and colors in a single place that only a few other scenes can match.

However, a festival is not only a place where you can capture staged actions; it's also an excellent venue for candid people photography. This is what I usually do when I can't get a perfect spot to capture the actions: I turn my camera to the spectators. They can provide pictures as lively and fascinating as those of the event itself.

What do you need to do to get good candid photographs of people at festivals?

Scan the crowd often and look out for interesting faces and expressions. People cheering and laughing on a performance, for example, can make marvelous subjects for candid photography. Sometimes, when you get lucky, you can also find a rare candid moment of people doing things that is otherwise hard to get anywhere else. Just a couple of weeks ago while I was photo-hunting at a festival, I spotted a child playfully running and playing among the crowd while his mom was chasing after him. The scene was very expressive and was a perfect candid photo op of people.

There are basically two approaches you can take about capturing faces in the crowd. First, you can use a telephoto lens. This kind of lens is very useful especially when your position is at a distance away from the scene you want to photograph. The shallow depth of field and the narrow view of a telephoto lens enable you to isolate the subject and throw the background details out of focus. The characteristics of telephoto lens, which as you know tend to compress perspective, may also come in handy especially when you want to capture the different facial expressions in the crowd.

If you only have a standard or wide angle lens, or if you happen to be in the middle of the crowd, take advantage of your position by looking for interesting subjects near you. Unlike the first approach with the telephoto lens where you can observe your subjects from a "safe" distance and somewhat take your time in choosing and aiming at your subject, the use of standard or wide angle lens requires that you aim and focus swiftly, so that you don't lose the candid moment in front of you. (Remember, the subject's awareness of the presence of your camera can change the scene from candid to posed, which of course will make your photograph less interesting.)

Text and photos by Eki Qushay Akhwan.

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Unless otherwise stated, the articles and photos in this blog are the copyright property of Eki Qushay Akhwan. All rights reserved. You may NOT republish any of them in any forms without prior permission in writing from Eki Qushay Akhwan.

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