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Wooden Life of Asmat

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You learn something new everyday. A cliche and very rhetorical, but when you learn it the hard way, would be great to able to see it in a fun perspective.

Being a press photographer for five years in a newspaper, my routine would be; taking shots (either it was an assignment nor my own proposed ideas), make a selection of photos of the day, put a caption in each photo, then submit them to the editors to be reviewed.

See? As a newspaper photographer, a photo is your own work. You either good at it, or you dont. The picture is either good enough or sucks. They publish it, or they dont. You cant blame anyone, if it’s sucks, that means you sucks. Our post production has always been that simple. We cant do too much retouching, cos the picture must be published just the way it is. Writing the caption seems like our only hard work in post production.

The only reason me and my photog friends didn’t leave the office too soon, because we hang out first to smoke, bitchin about shitty things we have to face that day, made of fun of our friends and talk about the so called future. Ah, those were the days.. Photography, as told by a National Geographic photo contributor, Amy Toensing, is more of a lifestyle, than a job. Damn right!

Now that I have to work harder to persuade magazine editors to publish my stories, proposing my pictures are no longer enough. So lately, am trying to write longer than just captions. As you can see in my previous posts of “her published work”, am trying to write articles now, in a proper way.

Went well for a couple of articles, where I can proudly have my name for a complete set of the article, both the text and photos. Accomplishments are vary to people, and for me it’s one of my accomplishment. Since I was told once, how sucks my writing is. I know I can do better. Am surrounded by people who have been doing it many years in their life, and they’re not just good at it, they are also my friends who dont mind to share tips of how to be better.

But my latest article about Asmat tribe in Papua, made me compromised my ego as a photographer, who used to enjoy having my own name in the work. Writing articles are totally different.

First of all, there are editors. If your writings sucks, but the material is actually news worthy enough, they can cut here and there, sometimes even rewrite the whole story, just to make sure the article will be well presented to the readers. Oh, and of course, the project officers. You have to have a good project officers who can understand what you’re trying to say in the article, otherwise, you screwed. You really dont want them to misinterpret you, cos it will totally effect the final cut.

Those things dont happen in photos. Unless retouching is allowed (which is unlikely will happen to photojournalism works), editors cant change the elements in a picture just because they think it’s not good enough. Your photo will be just tossed away. Then your name wont appear. Simple as that.

In writings, if you can have a quote or even just a line (not a paragraph — a line!) of a reportage about the place or event, you can still have your name on the bottom as credit. You can really sucks, yet you still have your name on the final edit which will be far better than the ones you wrote.

For Asmat article, I need to share my credit with another journalist who was there.

Asmat, a distrct in West Papua province, is located over muddy marshlands, where homes are built on stilts, connected to one another by a grid of boardwalks. It s a land where art seems to flow in the blood of most Asmats, as most villagers seem to revel in making it one of the word-recognized centers for beautiful wood carvings. But Asmat is also a land of shortages, given ts remote and isolated locaton. Many of the children are illiterate and food is expensive. Kurniawan and Eka Nickmatulhuda write from Asmat on the trials and tribulations of ts peope for Tempo Engsh Edition.

He apparently have a better body of work about Asmat. So half – almost half of the complete set, was my story. Of course, edited by the project officers and other editors. They even use the work of other photographers to accompany the other journo’s work. For me, it’s a set back. Painful.

But I’ll only publish the works which is mine, here in this blog. Cos am plain selfish! hehe.. Here goes

Anyhow, in the end, as I read the story, I kinda like the way they use my reportage, since the editors think, mine is somewhat richer in describing things than the other journo. They even gave me the chance to rewrite the story, instead of just doing it themselves. Am thankful that they did. It was fun, to put another twist on the new story, based on the old materials I have and mixed them with other journo’s materials.

The story was published in TEMPO English Edition on second week of February 2011’s edition.

Special thanks to :

Ka Hermien, Dika Hamid, Fanny, Galih, photo editors and TEBI editorial team.

more images here.


Written by nickmatulhuda

February 22, 2011 at 12:55 pm

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