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My Heart Skips a Beat

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Everyday, I count my blessings. Tried. Never worked. They’re just too much.

In between irritations for being stood up on works that being promised, nor rejections when proposing works, photography continues to give me jolts and keep my heart beeps.

But there are times when my heart skips a beat,

Mba Eka ini, Nickmatulhuda kan? Kemana aja mba? Kok sekarang fotonya udah jarang keliatan? Udah ngga di Tempo yah?

Some guy in random events or occasions that just pop up infront of me and claimed to missed my by-line appear in my previous media, Tempo. Yes sir.. I miss that too. Hope I can hide my blush knowing that someone out there do recognize my works. Or at least my name.

Hi, we came across your website and was wondering if you want to share some of your work to our audience?

My heart stops right there. Wondering if that means another re-publication that will get me paid or receive a small notes of thank you instead.

Eka, tanggal 12 jangan lupa yah.. Motretin acara gue. 

Ah.. Nothing more exciting than doing less frustrating work, like shooting an event of a bunch of camera frenzy ladies. Easy money. Love it!

Am doing a story on labour, did you shoot last week’s protest?

My God! Is that why God set me up a meeting with a friend in a mal, and made me took pictures of that labour protest while I wait up for him to arrive? Subhanallah.. I HAPPENS to have the picture that fits perfect for her story!


Hey girl, I got a job for you, to illustrate my story about Jakarta..

I told you people.. be organized. Your pictures are your babies. Only with a stack of stock photos, I can take this job without too much hassle.

Googled my name and found these from previous work opportunities,


Shooting for Badzine, on a Badminton Superseries in Johor Bahru, Malaysia.


Shooting for Greenpeace on Citarum story in West Java, Indonesia.

people daily

Sentani Lake Festival pic published via Xinhua.

Am doing some stories, can you shoot for me?


Felt cool to have my picture on a story in a language I barely understand. *dumbface*

It's getting harder for me to get the opportunity of shooting spot news and being published! SO everytime I do, I felt good to be part of history.

It’s getting harder for me to get the opportunity of shooting spot news and being published! SO everytime I do, I felt good to be part of history.

The art director likes your work and would love it if you were responsible of taking the photos. 

I work by references, most of the times, and I try hard to maintain that good cooperation with someone who trusts me. And I cant be enough grateful for being surrounded by people with such fair and great working environment. Thanks guys.. Thank you so much.

The photos are wonderful! 🙂 Thank you! I’lll keep you posted with our final selection once we start the page layout. You can send me your bill directly.

Ah… Payment.. New sets of numbers in my bank account… Ah.. how I love thee.

I also enjoyed the interview and thank you for the pictures!! Am not really a camera face, but I really love this picture!

Receiving a thank you from the subject of your last shoot, was also breezing. You can tell when they actually mean it and show respect for the work, or just being polite in between their crazy schedule.

Whoops! reminds me, I still have a list of people whom I’ve promised to have their pictures send by email.

This skips a beat thing can be really addictive!


Written by nickmatulhuda

February 22, 2013 at 10:07 am

Okapi – 100 % Ado!

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Your best investment is your friends.. And the best thing to invest on them is by being sincere and never treat them like investment.

If you met my friends, most would describe me as crazy chick. Absurd, impulsive and most of the times, weird and dont make sense.

But they also know that I take my profession seriously. Everything I do when it comes to journalism works, I do it with full responsibility, and though am playful, I dont play around when someone had trusted me in working with them.

This time, it is Okapi. A French magazine for kids. Well.. Ado! not kids.. 🙂

They wanted to make a story about palm oil, and its effect to the people of Dayak in Kalimantan. And a wonderful French friend of mine linked them to me.

Long story short, I was paired with another wonderful French lady, and we had a full week of surprises with the “modern” Dayak people in remote places of Pontianak.

The story of how palm oil plantation have been destroying the lives of Dayak people, just break my heart. A village is abandon because it is surrounded by hectares of palm oil plantation own by at least 3 different companies. The remaining villagers need to survive with what is left. No more fish in the rivers, because the fertilizers from the plantation had been killing them. Clean water is scarce.

That is just one sad story we found, among many eye opener truths, that will make you questioning yourself as human, how greedy can you really be?

But presenting them to teenagers, are not as simple as writing it down in national paper or magazine as full investigative report. For those whose French is as poor as me, I hope the pictures tell some sort of story as well..

Published on September issue, in France, as a 12 pages report, co funded by CCFD, a Catholic Committee Against Hunger and for Development.

Written by nickmatulhuda

September 5, 2012 at 10:29 pm


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If you’re a working photojournalist, especially who works daily, you must be familiar with the similar feeling of a soothing breeze when you see your pictures printed on the headline of today’s paper. Those sweats, tears and annoying circumstances you must encountered yesterday to get the picture, are paid off. For a minute, you even forget how small your salary is [for most people, that is].. When the proof of your existence and hard work is right there! Published!

It’s a privilege that is kinda hard for me at the moment. Now that I focused more on documentary projects, and non-hard news works. It’s not impossible, but  I dont see any of my work is heading to the headlines right now.

It’s heading somewhere else..

Shooting a story [that are self-sponsored] is one thing. Getting it to a larger audience outside my friends and family circles, is another hardwork. I cant just post it on facebook to get as many as those LIKE buttons, the picture could get. A, I dont have a facebook account, and B, facebook is just not the right media for photojournalist wanting to make a change with what you do best.

Partly, this is how website helps. And the other part is connections you’ve built and having your previous works published in different media in the past.

Two new media called me few months back and asked me to send them a story to be published. The first one was Strategic Review Indonesia, and the other was Tabloid Prioritas. I couldnt really offer them entirely new-fresh from the oven kind of story, since I havent really go out and shoot the second half of the year 2011. (It’s because am saving for a looooong trip this year!) But they didnt mind, as long as I can give them pictures that havent been published, and a story with certain impacts for their readers.

This is when the efforts in seeing a place, an event or a story in more than one perspective, can actually do you good!

Asmat and India-in-Indonesia stories are not new. I already have that story about daily life of Asmat printed in TEMPO magazine English Edition back in February 2011, and India Tamil community in Medan has been published in Travelounge in December 2010. But as I managed to give the other two media another angle of stories, it worked just fine… The key is, I didnt just give them another set of picture, instead, I was honest that the similar story has been published, but I can give them a whole new story, either by generalized the story, or specified it.

Tabloid Prioritas is a new media prepared to support a certain political party for 2014 election. And now, they want me to prepare a photo story for their FIRST EDITION!

Basically from where I see it, it is important for them to have stories that showing how the current government is just not good enough. So, I specified my story and just focused on the children of Asmat. Whilst the ones published in TEMPO English Edition was about the Wooden Life of Asmat – something that is quite more general.

On the contrary with Strategic Review Indonesia, which has tagline, The Indonesian Journal of Leadership, Policy and World Affairs. And quoting the Editor in Chief’s note, “We are committed to the maintenance of a public forum that includes the top names in academic research, think tanks, major institutions and governments to push the debate on the essential questions that confront Indonesia..”.

When I offered them a few sets of stories, they picked the India-in-Indonesia. Last year, Travelounge had the more specific story about Navarathri, an event took place in Medan. SR-Indonesia in this case, get the wider perspective about how diverse Indonesians can be, and how beautiful diversity is. Even the Senior Editor claimed to felt surprised when she saw the story which now made her know about the India-Tamil community existence, here in Indonesia. One of her favorite picture was the one where a Hindu devotee poured a carton of milk -Ultra Jaya milk, which is very Indonesian- on -a very Indian colour- Gods figure.

Now, my sense of that breeze-like feeling would be when I managed to get my stories published to many kinds of readers, and able to serve the needs of different media, from just a theme of story, but by providing them another angle and make it as if its a whole new story. And doing that, without compromising the quality, which means, I dont just gave them another set of pictures that didnt make it on the first selection of the first publication. Instead, the same quality sets of images to create a different story from the same source.

And what makes it even better was to know, that I didnt offer them, but it was them who came to me and asked. Now that’s when I know, all my hard work in doing the research, self funds the story, build the website to showcase my best works, are now paid off..

Thank you so very much, Hera Diani (SR-Indonesia) and Budi Yanto (Prioritas) for the chance given. And thank you for making me feel good, at the beginning of a new year. Have a great year of 2012, y’all!

Written by nickmatulhuda

January 5, 2012 at 5:50 pm

Consent Form and Model Releases

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Still trying to understand the need of those two, including how am I actually getting them to be signed, and do i really need them?

Last week, I found an email about a photo competition in one of mailing list I subscribes to. It’s a photo competition by World Health Organization, with AIDS theme. I read it on the 14th of October, and the deadline was on the 15th.  So it was just a last minute decision to enter. The prize wasnt that big, only 100 to 300 USD, but since the winning photos will get the chance to be competed in the regional level, and WHO is quite a good name to have your work attached to, so i gave it a shot and send some of the AIDS in Papua pix.

Few days back, the organizer called me and said, I havent attached the consent form required for entering the photo competition, and said she’ll send me an email of the form, later. Well, she never did. And I never even have one single consent form signed by any subject I’ve photographed. Is it really a bad thing?

In order to complete my documentary on any topics, I’ve always made a personal approach. Just have a look at the AIDS in Papua series, for example. How can I get to do any of the photos if I haven’t made any attempt to get to know them? I didnt just come to the hospice, shoot bang bang bang and say bhubbye.. It took me a while, more than a week, just to blend in with them and have their trust to pick up my camera and shoot. Although, I must admit, in that Surya Kasih Hospice, the patients have gone through a lot, including the phase of denials, and somehow have made my shooting went much easier.

They have come to acceptance about their condition, having a deadly virus inside them that is killing them slowly. But they dont give up just like that. I still got shivers just to remember all the conversations I have with them. I dont think I could be as strong, yet accepting being vulnerable at the same time. They opened up to me, and let me shoot them, let me hear the stories and tell it to the world, so more people can learn from their experience.

And to honor that, since I also believe that the story that matters, not the person who has the HIV, I made frames that are not showing their faces at all. It’s a promise I made to Brother Agus who runs the place, and it’s a promise I tend to keep. Even if I have frames who did showing their faces, they are not for published. They are mine as a reminder of amazing people who have bravely share their stories, and let me in to their life – willingly.

So it must have been really weird, for anyone whom you tried to understand to, and being closed to, also tried to have them being comfortable with you, to signed any form while you shoot them, no? It’s like having a couple signed a prenuptual agreement, just before they’re getting married. Does the paper showing that you trust them, or actually NOT?

I have to admit, I have my share of stupidity, where I violate a trust from my subject. But it was merely a misunderstanding, which I totally regret until now.

Years back, when I just starting out, I get to know a young woman, who has HIV and lives in a rehab center. The “foster parents” of the rehab center told us – there were 3 photographers who shoot there- that the people in rehab, including the young woman, were okay with them being shot and have their stories published. I decided to get to know them better and allowed to stay at the rehab to shoot the daily of that young woman with HIV for a couple of days. My other 2 colleagues didnt seem to keen on doing the story. So it gave me more room to get to know them – the HIV positives in the rehab.

When I shoot the young woman, I must have been too overwhelmed and just do the photo story without thinking ahead. I did tell her specifically, that the story is going to be published in my paper, for the World AIDS day. But she must have somewhat assumed it was the story about the rehab center, and not her in particular. And I never thought it was a problem, since she was comfortable enough to be shot for a tv program purposes, which recorded while I was there.

When I got back to my office after a few days with her in the rehab, I edited some of the photos – who happens to showing her faces in almost every frame I took – and hand it out to the editor. But the editor thought the “moment” for World AIDS Day was over by the time I finished the story. And promised me a space to display the photos for Rethinking AIDS Day in April.

By April, I was told to contact the subject again to ask permission, just to make sure. I never get a hold of her on the phone, because she wasn’t allowed to have a cell phone in the rehab. So I contacted the “foster parents” and asked if its okay. She said, the girl was no longer in the rehab and the only person who can contact her, is out of the country for some time, and she didnt have the number. It was a mess, really.. But she told me that it should not be a problem, because people do need to know the story. And by publishing it, we both expect to have more people understand about HIV/AIDS and what it can do to you.

So it did. It was published.

A week later, I received a call from the girl in the story, asking me; Why did you publish it? I didnt remember to give you the permission to publish it! You said it was just to illustrate about the HIV patients!

I was shocked.

After she calmed down, I understand the real reason she called was that the story can potentially ruin her life and the life of her loved ones. She has a son, who has a future she needs to think of. And I wasnt making it easy for her, by showing her face as an HIV patient all over the photo display. Knowing that, crushed my heart, and I couldnt do anything but apologize and cursed myself at the same time.

The damage has been done. And my stupidity is causing that damage. And there’s nothing we can do.

This is probably when a consent form will be helpful. But even so, if she did sign it back when I shoot her activities, and yet regret the decision after wards because none of us really thought about the consequences… will that piece of paper can make me feel better for the damage I made? I dont think so.

I believe, every photographer has a full responsibility to what they are shooting. The responsibility to the subject, to the story itself, and to the community. We are responsible to make sure the subject know their rights. That it was okay for us to shoot them. But for the purposes of investigative reporting, for example, we have the responsible to share the photos to the community.. to the world.. To let them know what is happening in certain part of the world, even if in most cases, the subject wont like it much. And of course, we are responsible to the story itself. To tell only the truth through our photos. Despite the following various interpretations by those who see the images. Because interpretations are not the responsibility of the “messenger”, as long as we have given the true fact in our photos and any information that comes with it.

This is no longer about the photo competition. I really dont care. I’ll have other chance. Besides, the story hasnt finished yet. I have a big plans in how i can deliver the message through my photos about AIDS in Papua, to get the attention of more people to understand about the situation, and how they can help. I want my stories to make a difference. Not just a participant for any photo competitions. They have to play a bigger role. I hope they are.

But this consent form and model releases still puzzle me. I am still trying to understand the need of those two, including how am I actually getting them to be signed, and do i really need them?

I’ve googled them up actually, and found most articles showing that requirements of model releases, are for the commercial purposes. To make sure, the subject is okay that you are using the photos for commercials, such as stock photos. To read more, you can check here : or here ; or even download the example of model releases here :

I think the consent form is sort of similar. But I cant really picture myself carrying a stack of forms to be signed, everytime I go out and documenting stories in life.

I would be a total hypocrite to say I never shoot for the money. Or expecting to have my work published somewhere and receive payments, or even winning some photo competitions. Because money is always good. It support my next stories, of course!

But it’s not everything.

Most of the stories I made, were driven by my way of thinking, that the stories are worth to be told. To know our lives from any angle to achieve more understanding. Even if the stories merely come from my perspective only.

Written by nickmatulhuda

October 22, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Piece of Peace

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Piece of Peace, Bandung 2010.

Imagine if we can buy peace so cheap. A piece of peace, for everyone!

Cimaja the Ultimate Surf Spot

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The story has been sitting in my external hard drive since 2009. I need to publish it soon before it gets rotten.

Been to Cimaja, Sukabumi, West Java three times now. The people are great, the place is incredible, and the road to get there from Jakarta is just a really pretty scene.

Since I dont know how to swim in the sea, I cant really tell you hows it feel to surf there. But there’s just so many surf spots you can have fun in, especially if you’re a pro surfer. But if you’re a beginner and wants to learn how to surf in a cool fun way, drop a message here in the comment page, and I’ll recommend you just the right person you need to see.

Ah, I really miss Cimaja sometimes. The fact that as I get up early to feel the breeze at the beach on my second visit and simply found myself completely all alone there – as if the whole coast line was my own private property, was just awesome!

The story of the waves rider here in Cimaja, published in Travelounge on May 2011 edition. They hardly edit my writing (hope thats a sign that am getting better at it) and just rearrange some lines. I liked the graphic design that comes with this pack. Unfortunately, some of the pix somehow being printed just a little too blue-ish. 😦

**Special thanks to Dedy Klinx, Cici and my (have not yet met) nephew, Cakrawala Jingga, Pa Mumu, surfer kids in Cimaja, and mba Rita.

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May 3, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Booklet Project of KID

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I think it was a year ago when I was asked to do this project.

KID – Komunitas Indonesia untuk Demokrasi (The Indonesian Community for Democracy) has been around for a while. The founders are some of the most respectable people who are active in promoting democracy. In 2004, Dr. Ignas Kleden, Dr. Daniel Sparringa, Dr. Tamrin A. Tomagola, Ratih Hardjono, Kresnayana Yahya, Dr. Supra Wimbarti, Prof. Mohtar Mas’oed, Dr. Anita Lie and Ruhaini Dzuhayatin founded this association. And they’re low profile. AND.. It’s tricky to shoot people who are low profile. Because they can come up with a list of excuses not to have their pictures taken during a photo shoot. Though it’s for their own advantage.

When I photograph people, I need to constantly tell myself to respect the people I shoot, but in the same time, since they are hiring a professional, (as they are also professional people), I must earn their respect as well so that they will trust me to shoot them. Or to be precise, I need to persuade and make them trust me just to do my thing.

There were a couple of options to do the shoot. But finally being decided to do some sort of head shots. And each head shots need to bring the best of the people I photograph.

Like I said, it was tricky, since they’re seniors. But the secretary, Shanti Josephine, had been very helpful, telling me the dos and donts whilst letting me do what I want. Even in one photo session which I photographed all of KID’s Board of Directors in a single frame. Unfortunately for me, the designer chose not to use it, and go straight with the head shots.

There were more than one location for shooting these people. And each in different lighting, where I cant really make or put a proper indoor lighting. So, some pictures had different tone of colors. I wished I can pull things together and make the lighting better and alike. Too bad, these busy people were really hard to meet. And seems to be impossible just to take their pictures for a decent numerous of time. This time, I dont really satisfied with my work, and I know I shouldve done better. Since they actually had been very cooperative in between their schedules.

The portraits were meant to be put in a booklet to promote their activities in several remote places of Indonesia. There are 20 pages of them, and these are the pages showing my works. I also shoot some of their activities in outskirts of Jakarta. About 80 percent of the pictures were my works.

This project has been taking a lot longer in the finishing phase, much longer than I thought it would be. One of the people I photographed, Asmara Nababan, died over a heart attack, just a couple of months before this project was finished. He’s one of the guy who was so sweet during the photo shoot, and patiently do things I asked him to do, since his posture was the tallest and the biggest among others. So I need to made him fit in the picture. Over all, every photo session for this project were interesting. And since I managed to make them listened to me, for the shoot, they were the ones who surprised me since they’re all okay with it. Photographers do have a great power in telling people what to do. But like the spiderman movie would say, with great power, comes great responsibility. Thank God all went well.

The team of this project are : Kurie Suditomo (writer and head of the project), Eko Punto Pambudi (layout and cartoon), Nickmatulhuda (photographer) and two other contributing photographers, one of them is Ayu Ambong with her stock photos.

Written by nickmatulhuda

April 17, 2011 at 6:40 pm