This fourteen-part series is based on our journey to Japan and Indonesia, beginning September 13, 2017. In each post we use our presence in Asia as a broader background to the usual exploration of how we fit into this world. Welcome to our private life.

Dog On Black Sand, August 2017

Dog On Black Sand, August 2017

The random squalor in Denpasar was not unexpected. We could barely stay awake as we crept through traffic to Ubud after the nine hour flight from Tokyo (plus a five hour layover), but we still noticed the details from the taxi. In Indonesia the general living conditions are primitive compared to Japan and most western countries, so the scene on the route north from the airport was an incredible contrast to yesterday.

We were ignorant about the heavy Hindu presence on the island, so we were curious about the peculiar stone shrines we saw everywhere. According to the taxi driver they are a place for Balinese to offer gifts and pray for a good life, and everyone decorates them for the gods with ribbons and flowers and burning incense. In broken English he explained that everyone has a shrine, sometimes several, in every living space regardless of the dwelling condition. It was apparent in the way he said ‘Hindu BalĂ­’ that it is not the same as the mainland Asian sects, but we couldn’t speak enough common language to ask how it differs.

Despite the unsophisticated lifestyle we thought it was admirable that even such relatively poor people still find a way to make offerings to the shrines in return for things like good weather days and luck with money. Christians pray for the same things – yet they persecute those who worship idols, a hypocrisy we find confusing.

Our small villa rests on a plot in the middle of rice paddies lined with palm and date trees. Its simple design is a welcome change from the Tokyo confusion, and if we all get sick from the water none of us would be too upset about staying here, poolside, for a few days.

Pink Leaves, August 2017

Pink Leaves, August 2017

Gianyar, Bali Indonesia

In the future I will shoot more for aesthetics alone. Right now a typical week has me making mostly documentary images of us three since my time is limited, but that will change because I miss the results of experimenting and shooting with a looser purpose. When I started photographing I enjoyed finding the occasional pleasing visual in all the bad images, but now that I know how to create from my own vision I will think more about what I want to see.

One of the best things about getting older is the transition from a life of utility to living for myself, because, if not now, when? So another new goal is painting. I’ve always wanted to learn more about the use of color in my images, and experimenting with a physical palette will help me do that.

Rock In The Surf, August 2017

Rock In The Surf, August 2017

Near Medahan, Bali Indonesia

Before I developed a sense of what I wanted to see in my images I used reading to attempt duplicating other people’s work. We all do it, and there is a usefulness in the process because we learn how to create as our vision begins to evolve. But now I read more for inspiration than for a source of imagery. It isn’t the same purpose. By now I’ve developed my own taste and no longer care what anyone thinks of my images, so I’m more careful about what I put in front of my lens. If there is similarity in my work to others’ that is only a coincidence. Besides, there’s nothing new under the sun.

I paint what cannot be photographed, that which comes from the imagination or from dreams, or from an unconscious drive. I photograph the things that I do not wish to paint, the things which already have an existence.
Man Ray
Wooden Statue, August 2017

Wooden Statue, August 2017

Gianyar, Bali Indonesia

When I asked gusde about how foreign immigrants to Bali are treated he told us the story of how his family passed down to him the land where this villa sits. I was trying to develop a sense for what it would be like to move here, but his history more appropriately painted a broader picture of the island’s social environment. Gusde’s family are part of a caste with a lot of social ties, so his family was well-off. His father was an exporter and did business in Europe, so when he was a teenager he studied in Switzerland. The move to Europe was a shock because, compared to the islanders where he grew up, he didn’t understand the detachment that Europeans have. Bali is a small island so people are much more social than westerners, and he felt alone there.

Before we learned about the culture our experience in Bali was colored by western experience (read: cynicism). At first we were suspicious of their open friendliness, and we only felt comfortable after we understood they were just genuine people.

Black Sand, August 2017

Black Sand, August 2017

Near Medahan, Bali Indonesia

Australia is the nearest affluent country and it is geographically very near Bali, so there are a ton of Aussie tourists here. Think of the coastal areas as a very poor Fort Lauderdale with gracious natives and without amusement parks. That’s how tourists treat the island because some of the beaches are pretty trashy.

But not every place is overrun. We found gorgeous black sand beaches near Denpasar that aren’t abused by tourists, and most of the inland areas are inhabited by the locals who don’t have the means or the desire to change things very much. The way outsiders treat this place really bothers us, so we visit with respect and contribute the little we can with our presence.

Vines, August 2017

Vines, August 2017

Gianyar, Bali Indonesia

Our companions are also artist/photographers. They do a lot of consumer work. Their approach is completely opposite of ours; while I might have walked around the villa today for an hour taking 8-10 images, they probably got up two hours earlier than us to ride the scooter into Ubud and shoot maybe a hundred (ballpark) images of the tourists.

But their purpose is different than ours. When I started doing creative work years ago I wanted to shoot full-time, but since then I realize the blessing that I did not quit my day job. Neither of us enjoy the pace of consumer work, and quite honestly it isn’t something we love to do so we are selective. Instead we try to remain faithful to who we are, and thoughtful of the things we choose to make.

Paint Flakes, August 2017

Paint Flakes, August 2017

Gianyar, Bali Indonesia

I really admire photographers who use film, before scanners and social media existed. Those people loved what they did and they dedicated enormous amounts of time, thoughtfulness, and energy to their work. That may seem trite but it wasn’t apparent to me until I learned how difficult it is to conceptualize or expose an image. Intensity wasn’t the only method, those who didn’t create instantaneously admired works spent years shooting what they loved, sometimes haphazardly compiling collections that were only recognized posthumously.

The fact that no one could buy Instagram likes or modify the saturation of a desired color palette meant they had to think more than we do now – or love more. One or the other had to be true, because how else do you make a career without sitting at a computer like it seems most do today?

Aquatic Plants, August 2017

Aquatic Plants, August 2017

Gianyar, Bali Indonesia