“If it means to disturb and make people angry, then I prefer not to take a picture.”
Aji Susanto Anom (born 1989) is a young street photographer from Indonesia.
It’s his curiosity that made him become a street photographer. It’s the fact that one never knows what might happen around the next corner that he loves about street photography.
For Aji Susanto Anom street photography is a challenge to train the eye to see things that normally would remain unseen or that we wouldn’t pay much attention to.
In this interview Aji Susanto Anom talks about his influences, his approach to street photography and what makes a single image stand out.
Interview with Aji Susanto Anom
Aji Susanto Anom, what made you start with street photography and what is it that intrigued you about that particular genre?
I love to go out and see the world.
I’m curious about what happen out there, everyday.
I don’t think so much about the genre itself. I just capture what interests me and what I feel in my journey – anywhere, anytime.
What were your main references at the beginning?
Henri Cartier-Bresson and his concept of the decisive moment in photography.
Was it learning by doing or did you investigate beforehand about the genre and studied the work of other street photographers?
Learning by doing. And discussions and talks with other street photographers.
Can you still remember your first day going out to shoot street?
I still remember it, I borrowed my friends camera to do it for the first time.
What were the greatest challenges and maybe fears you encountered in the beginning?
I don’t have any fears since I don’t do anything wrong. The greatest challenges, I must admit is satisfaction, and “I know anything in this place” thought.
How has your understanding of street photography changed over the years? Compared to what you thought in the beginning.
It changes a lot and is still changing. It evolves from time to time and I’m forever a learner.
You were among the finalists for the “Invisible Photographer Asia Street Photography Awards “ 2013. What does a good street photograph need in your opinion in order to stand out and get noticed? Especially keeping in mind the abundance of visual imagery in today’s society.
Well, I don’t agree with the terms ‘good’ and ‘bad’ when it comes to judging a photograph.
When it comes to a competition, it’s all about an ‘ideal’ photograph. But what is ‘ideal’?
Ask Plato. One thing I learnt about photography out there is that a photograph that stands out and is memorable because it’s honestly captured. That it represents what the photographer felt in that particular moment.
What reaction do you intend to provoke in people looking at your images?
I don’t think about that when taking an image.
How do you handle uncomfortable situations while shooting street photography? People, for example, not wanting to have their picture taken or not understanding the concept of street photography.
Well, when they don’t want to have their picture taken, then I just go and take another moment.
I’m not the typical person who forces a moment to be captured, even if that’s very unique and rare.
If it means to disturb and make people angry, then I prefer not to take a picture.
I believe that I will find another photograph, universe will help me.
What’s your strategy when you walk up close to people? Do you interact with them or take the shot and move on?
I smile, raise my camera, shoot and walk away.
What qualities and characteristics does a good street photographer need?
You must know that you don’t know anything and learn to see the unseen.
In what direction is street photography heading in your opinion? What have been the most significant developments in recent years?
“It is so refreshing and challenging.”
It is heading into a good direction. A lot of collectives are born, that’s a significant developments.
Well, you know the old saying that “a wolf is stronger in packs”. And don’t forget the improvement of mobile phone cameras – that’s a game changer, too, as a lot of new photographs are taken everyday. It is so refreshing and challenging.
Street photography is very much about seizing the moment. Things usually happen unexpectedly. How do you train your eyes to “know” when a special moment is about to come?
When you go out, try to see a lot and try to find every detail of life that maybe of interest to you, even if you don’t bring a camera.
You will get to train your eyes.
Your pictures combine a lot of compositional elements: lines, shapes, shadows etc. How much of that is planned and how important is intuition and a quick hand to press the shutter button?
“Quick eyes and hands, that’s the secret.”
I try not to plan anything in my pictures. I think it is boring when you try to decide something beforehand.
I just go with my intuition. I try to capture the emotion of the moment – quick eyes and hands, that’s the secret.
If I got a lot of compositional elements that works in my pictures, then it will be a bonus from when I learn basic photography, it is show up unconsciously.
Last but not least, let’s switch roles: Which question would you have liked to be asked in this interview about your work that I didn’t ask? Please feel free to add it – as well as the answer.
Q: Can you show us your personal favourite photograph that you have taken by far?
A: That’s a tough question.
I’d like to choose two images from my most recent assignment on Cuba.
The first one I picked for its colors and lighting. The second one I just like for its moment, a simple street shot.