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Arbas and The Road Less Traveled

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One thing I missed the most for having a co worker in a settled media, would be the whole office drama.

The good old days. Arbas (far back) always playing hard to get just to get him in a picture. (L-R clock wise) Imam, Ibben, Budi, Dimas, Tohar, me, Ambong, Gunce, Arnold (below) and Eeng in Tempo News Room photo desk, Velbak, Jakarta, April 9 2008.

“That’s it? You dont need a camera just to take that pic. Any child with built in camera cellphones can do THAT!”

It was one of many harsh comments from my senior in Tempo News Room, Arie Basuki. Better known as Arbas, that tall dark skinned not too fat guy in his late 30s, is one of the most well known photojournalist in Indonesia. Not just because he has won many awards (google him up and you’ll find him as a winner of some international photo competitions), but also known for his absurd behavior.

He laughed at me once, in my early years working in Tempo, just because I didn’t know who James Nachtwey was. He made me making tea or coffee for him and my photo editor for almost a week so he will teach me how to use a strobe properly (later on, I found out that he was as terrible with strobes like I was). We got into a huge fight over a simple misunderstanding for a photo assignment he gave me, that silenced the whole room of photo desk. I must have been the first female photographer under his command who fought him instead of just listen and being obedient. The incident followed with more incidents and many more misunderstandings, that almost cost me my job. Even my boss ordered me specifically to apologize to him of which I refused. If he’s a stubborn man child, then I was a persistent mother. My friends were forced to take sides under that circumstances, and they told me to gave up, because they love us both. Arbas was the ones in charge for coordinating photographers, and he made me without assignments for more than a month. It was hard since I was a stringer, where I got paid per picture that Tempo used.

I knew he was trying to test my patience, and I was doing the same. During those times, I was forced to show him that I can still do well without assignments and struggled harder to get more interesting features just to get recognition. My work paid off. One day, it was the editor who was “forced” to display my picture, because it goes well for a story – it was about President Soeharto’s funeral. He didnt say a thing when it happened, so the next day, one of the editor who was in desperate need for a photographer -and no one else were free for one more assignment- decided to asked me to do a shoot. Surprisingly, he wasn’t mad at all. I knew then that he’s no longer furious with me. That afternoon, I came to him and apologized for all the misunderstandings, and asked him for not ever be angry with me anymore, because it’s simply scary. From that point, we’ve become BFF – Best Friends Forever.. Yeukh!

Arbas and his shoe tricks. Tino Investor Daily on the back ground.

Arbas love to do simple stupid and very annoying thing in the field. He hides shoes, he tied two shoe strings together when the shoe owners didnt realize it and almost caused him to fall. He changed the settings in his friend’s cameras as they were waiting for a minister at the entrance gate or when covering street protest. Once he untied one of the camera sling of a friend that almost cost his camera. His friend was furious but it never stopped Arbas from doing stuffs. One Tempo photographer punched him on the face once, but they continue to be friends in love and hate until now. If you asked any female photographers who once worked with him, every one of us had cried atleast once, because of him – including me. Arbas has a very high standard for our photos, and he was raised in a hard way by my former photo editor, Hariyanto, and thats how we were raised by him. I NEVER HAD ANY GENDER ISSUE IN TEMPO, because we were never treated like girls who take pictures. We were more like — photographers who happens to be females.

Once you know Arbas and his complexities, you can not NOT love him.

I respect him for being one of the most dedicated photojournalist that I look up to. If Indonesia has become more familiar with disasters, then disasters had become familiar with him. May it be fire, flood, riot, violence, earth quakes, volcano eruptions, sick patient, even tsunamis, you can always sure, he’ll have his name written on photos for credential, or even got in the news itself! Once, he was probably too excited shooting birds flu, that he got in the hospital for being a suspect patient. He made the front page, with him in the pic. Whilst I dont always enjoy his works which mostly have old women, poor babies and people at the slums starring in his pictures, but since he’s always travel in road that less photographers would take, I salute him for being courageous, since there are reasons why those roads less traveled, you know?

Our little fight in the crowd. Always! Always!

This afternoon, he’ll take one of the roads less traveled. He’ll be flying to Libya, assigned by Tempo, with one of Tempo’s finest journalist, Qaris Tajudin. Qaris has been to Egypt during the heat there on January 25th, but this would be Arbas’ first assignment to the Middle East. As a good friend, how can I not worry? Even for us, fellow Indonesians, communicating with him is a huge task. We sometimes hardly understand a word he’s saying because he’s more like murmuring words instead of talking properly. I wonder how will he survive? His most arabic expression would be Bismillah, Alhamdulillah, Allahu Akbar and Astaghfirullah. And his addiction to troubles as he’s a mischiefmaker himself, can get him in jeopardy! O well.. (sighed). May Allah be with them both, protect them and ease their duties in Libya. Hope they’ll come back safely, so Arbas would be back home to his family and to be able to see his son again every now and then in between his crazy work schedule.

Best of luck, buddy! Be safe!

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Written by nickmatulhuda

April 2, 2011 at 10:16 am

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