In the riveting world of photography, Rarindra Prakarsa stands as a beacon of innovation and sublime artistry. With a style that seamlessly blends the dramatic allure of cinema and the tranquil beauty of painting, Rarindra's photographs narrate poignant stories bathed in captivating light. In this exclusive interview, we delve deep into the mind of the master behind the lens, as he shares insights on his journey, inspirations, and the transformative moments in his prolific career.
Retro Kolkata : As a veteran photographer with nearly 30 years of experience, can you tell us about the most transformative moment in your career and how it influenced your approach to photography?
Rarindra : First of all, I am not really that much of a "veteran" , as I started as a full-time photographer only 10 years ago, was semi-pro for 8 years, and an amateur since I was young. But it is correct that it has been around 30 years since I first held an SLR camera.
There have been several highlights in my photography journey. Initially, I worked in mass media, not as a photographer but as a graphic artist. Some fellow pro photographers in the office really influenced me with their photojournalism photos. I almost moved into "photography" and developed a love for street and journalism photography. However, I realized I needed to pursue my career as a graphic artist. Then, I shifted my genre to travel and people photography as I always ventured out during the weekends to take pictures.
Next, a significant change occurred when I transitioned from analog to digital photography in early 2004. Around the same time, I discovered the works of Walter Spies, a painter whose art showcased the beauty of my country, Indonesia, especially Bali. His mastery of composition, lighting, and colors deeply influenced me. I began experimenting with capturing beautiful natural light during mornings and afternoons, while also utilizing my skills in post-processing to emulate Walter Spies' style in my photographs. This approach received appreciation worldwide, with several of my pictures being featured in international magazines across various countries, including Indonesia.
Retro Kolkata : Your photographs have an incredibly cinematic quality. Can you discuss your artistic process? What stages do your photographs typically go through from conception to the final image?
Rarindra : Everything starts with raw ideas, which gradually evolve into vivid imaginations in my mind, bringing the concepts closer to reality. The next step is executing these imaginations: finding the right place and people, setting up lighting, and conducting surveys. The final stage involves refining my imagination through post-production. What distinguishes each photographer is how they conceive ideas and nurture their imagination.
Retro Kolkata : Light plays a significant role in your work, endowing everyday scenes with a dramatic, movie-like quality. Can you elaborate on your philosophy of light and how it guides your photographic process?
Rarindra : I firmly believe that any scene can look special if treated with proper lighting. My philosophy on lighting encompasses both functional and artistic aspects. The functional side focuses on making the subject stand out, creating clarity and contrast through effective lighting. This requires a deep understanding of lighting theory, a subject I continuously study. The artistic aspect involves evoking moods and creating more artistic images. The communication intended for the audience and the direction of light can significantly influence the mood created through the photographs.
Retro Kolkata : Your love for visual communication began during your college days. How do you feel your background in graphic design influences your current photographic style?
Rarindra : It indeed helps significantly. The fundamentals of graphic design are 99% similar to photography, including aspects like contrast, balance, color theory, repetition, etc. However, if you ask whether it influences my style directly, not really. I developed my own style after being inspired by various paintings and cinema, which I wanted to incorporate into my images.
Retro Kolkata : Many photographers speak about having a "defining image" or a particular photograph that encapsulates their style or philosophy. Do you have such an image? If so, can you describe it and explain why it's significant to you?
Rarindra : Yes, I do. An old picture I took around 2007 propelled me to a new level as it stirred conversations in several photography communities and portals, even before the social media era. It's a simple picture of an old man, a farmer, walking with his grandson on a paddy field path under beautiful rays of light. This image perfectly represented what I envisioned at that time - a romantic style portraying the beauty of my country. I have a fondness for retro romanticism style.
Retro Kolkata : You've mentioned your admiration for Walter Spies, the German painter. Can you tell us more about how painters and the medium of painting influence your photographic style?
Rarindra : I used to visit the Dutch Embassy near my college to explore art exhibitions during lunchtime. It was during one of these visits that I encountered Walter Spies' art for the first time, and I was instantly enamored by his creations. His works have since been ingrained in my mind, constantly inspiring me to integrate his style into my photography, especially his use of beautiful morning light. Consequently, I started venturing out to capture moments in the beautiful morning light near my home, even incorporating his color schemes into my photographs through post-processing.
Retro Kolkata : In today's digital age, with so many channels to share and distribute work, how do you think this impacts photographers and their artistic process? How has it impacted you personally?
Rarindra : I must say, the digital photography era, which began around 2004 for me, changed everything compared to the analog era – from the way we treat pictures to the volume we produce, and how we view and share our works. Digital photography, coupled with the internet, encouraged people to create more images, inviting many to delve into digital photography. This surge in participation fostered a competitive ambiance, elevating the quality of pictures produced.
Around 2010-2011, the trend of sharing works on social media began, increasing competition and fostering the creation of more images, especially with smartphones emerging as a popular photography tool. Now, the AI revolution is tremendously influencing photography. Personally, I am a fan of technology and readily embrace these changes to sustain my career. I appreciate the fantastic pictures created by the younger generation, which are readily available on social media. I find it fulfilling to observe a growth in the quality of my images over time, and I hope this upward trajectory continues.
Retro Kolkata : Your workshops have garnered international attention. Could you share the most common piece of advice or guidance you give to aspiring photographers?
Rarindra : The most common advice I share is that your most precious asset in photography is your ideas. It's the quantity and quality of your ideas that distinguish us from one another. While I can share 100% of photography techniques, I cannot impart even 1% of my ideas.
Retro Kolkata : Given the widespread admiration for your work, what do you think distinguishes your photographs and attracts such a global audience?
Rarindra : Honestly, I never focused on creating a unique style. I always encourage others not to obsess over developing a photographic style, but instead, to continually improve and create better versions of their images. While I'm unsure about the exact elements in my pictures that attract people, most inquiries I receive are about lighting.
Retro Kolkata : Looking towards the future, are there any particular themes or projects that you are excited about exploring in your photography? What can your fans look forward to in your upcoming work?
Rarindra : Frankly, I don't have a specific plan for the future. I might be at a point where I've achieved what I envisioned in the past. In the near future, I plan to explore more remote places in Indonesia and possibly collaborate with local governments to promote these places through my pictures. Additionally, I might delve into motion pictures, focusing on short films or documentaries with a similar visual approach to my photographs.
In this candid and enlightening conversation, we ventured into the rich landscape of Rarindra Prakarsa's photographic journey — a career punctuated by transformative encounters with various art forms and an unyielding passion for portraying light and life in its most ethereal forms. As he fondly reminisces about his experiences, it's evident that his dedication to the craft transcends the norm, illustrating a profound connection between artistic creativity and the vibrant tapestry of everyday life. From his early inspirations drawn from the magnetic artworks of Walter Spies to his ongoing evolution in the digital age, Prakarsa showcases a fascinating blend of technical prowess and a unique visual narrative that resonates globally. As we look forward to witnessing his continuous journey, there is no doubt that Prakarsa's upcoming ventures will further cement his legacy as a storyteller who paints the world in vibrant hues of light and shadow, inviting viewers to see the world through his transformative lens.