Frost on a Rose

After a battle with my travel agent, and losing, I will no longer be going to Lombok for Idul Fitri. Gone are the thoughts of basking in the equatorial sun and damaging my skin beyond repair. For those of you unfamiliar with Idul Fitri (don’t you love it when a white dude explains Muslim holidays) – it symbolizes the end of Puasa (the month of fasting) and generally includes a week of holiday. Luckily I work for an organization that embraces many different religions. What does this equate to? Tons of official holiday breaks and three (yes 3) months of vacation time a year!

The good news is that I’ve secured tickets to Yogyakarta (spelling varies) – near Borobudor – one of the Seven Wonders of the World. I can’t believe that I have yet to see it. From what I hear it’s absolutely phenomenal. You can bet I’ll have my camera with me. Does anyone have any experience with either places?

The shots that I’ve been putting up lately are from last Sunday. I took the most random and odd day trip to some river dam about an hour east of Jakarta. I’m sure some of you will recognize it, but I have no idea what the name would be. Supposedly it was built by the Dutch before they pulled out of Java.

Dutch Dam

As we got out of the car, I noticed that it wasn’t exactly a hot tourist destination – I’m sure I was the first foreigner to visit in quite a while. For the most part, it was pretty much a shithole (pardon me) – filthy, trash littered, industrial, and the road we took getting there gave new meaning to the word “potholes”.

A group of steel workers were soldering a beam without eye protection, calling out the national slogan of, “Hello mister!”. Instead of ignoring them, I sauntered on over to strike up a conversation.

“Where you from Mister?”

“No, where you from?”
“North Jakarta”
“Oh, you Australian yah!”
“Not even close man.”
“How’d you guess?”

“George Bush shit, but America ok.”
“I guess that means you support Kerry?”
“Nothin dude.”

“Why you take photo here? It’s not pretty!” (waving to the urban expanse in front of me)
“Would you rather I take your photo?”
“Take photo? Yeah Mister photography me!”

“So why you take photo here?” (do I hear an echo?)
“Cause I just drove an hour for this.”
“But over there is pretty!” (pointing to the OTHER side of the damn.)
“Shit, don’t I feel retarded.”

Hello Mister!

So basically here I was pissed off that I’d driven so far for nothing, only to have a steel worker tell me I was taking pictures of the wrong spot. You know what? He was right. When I ventured over to the other side, it was quite a view. People were all over the place fishing, hanging out, and taking in the view.

You just stole my fish!

There were men in the river balanced precariously on these small planks, fishing with the grace of a swan. In some ways it truly was artistic to see the way they moved and floated so gently down the river. I have yet to see this technique any other place.

Other people were fishing off of the wall of the dam, as the woman in my photo entitled “Alone”. The roar of the dam was not bothering them in the least. I wish that for just a moment I could have taken it all in without the rushing water creating a deafening crash. Often I find scenes in my ordinary day that would be more appreciated without sound distracting from its serenity. Do you remember the “plasic bag” scene in American Beauty, swirling around, and being teased by the wind as if somehow it was given life for just a moment? This was one of those times.

The longer I stay in Indonesia, the more I begin to see past the grime, the choking pollution, and the heartbreaking poverty so rampantly visible in Jakarta. Whenever I view this country through a camera lens, the negativity begins melting away like frost on a rose.

Dutch Dam


What’s my latest addiction?

How many of you have tried sites like friendster, hotornot, or other “group” websites?

Ok, how many of you have joined sites like for photo critique?

Now, how many of you have spent hours reading over travel blogs, photoblogs, and other weblogs searching for new experiences and perspectives?

Flickr is almost all of them combined. Where some other sites like friendster have failed, I believe this will succeed. We as an online community are constantly looking to connect to like minds. We as photographers are always looking for new inspiration and critiques for our work. We as travelers are permanently on the lookout for new experiences and ways to see other cultures through words and images.

I’ll be honest. A month ago I started hearing about the site, and was thinking, “yeah, yeah another photo hosting site”, signed up for it, and spent a total of 20 minutes browsing around in the last 4 weeks. That all changed this weekend.

Here’s why it’s different. Friendster started with a fascinating idea – connect people based upon the recommendations of others. Search through hundreds of photos of which may or may not be the real person (very often not), and be able to contact those which share common interests. In my opinion it has become a piece of crap. The server is slow, the photos are often not real, and it’s becoming an ego trip of how many friends / testimonials you have. What started out as a great idea has become a failure.

Photo critique sites? I belong to a few – being the one I’m on the most. I enjoy the feedback and critiques that I’ve received. The basic idea is great, but unless you pay the 25 – $50 a year, you often miss out on the benefits. Usefilm and others generally allow something like 1 upload a day – great if you have the patience. I’ve also noticed that the photos which receive the most attention are not always the best. Any photo showing skin will have 10 times the viewers and comments. Not too helpful for those of us shooting “normal” images.

Weblogs and photoblogs? They’re a wonderful way to connect – and generally much more “real” in their commenting, feedback, and returning visitors. I would much rather have 50 “genuine” visitors than 5000 “surfers”. The only problem is that they’re often hard to find, categorize, and stumble across. There are some wonderful resources out there:,, etc.

Flickr has proved itself to be an awesome new contender in all of these areas. They’ve come out swinging, and swinging hard. As a user, you’re able to upload as many photos as you’d like as long as you stay below 10 mb a month – let me tell you that’s plenty! I am MUCH happier with that system than the “one photo a day” or other tiny restrictions. With the cost of storage dropping dramatically – there’s really no reason for that anymore. Let’s talk to Mr. Gates about his 2mb hotmail accounts – what a bunch of shit that was. Luckily they’ve made a mistake on my account and upped mine to 2 gigabytes. Gmail has it right – I have two of their accounts for 1 gb each. Any site that wishes to become a leader in its genre needs to buck up for more space for members. Flickr has that part down pretty well.

The way that you can connect to others with similar interests is also a selling point. If I have “tags” that say “Indonesia, java, and volcanoes” people can quickly find my work, groups related and individual users. I’ve already found it to be a great way to find similar material.

There are groups that can be made by any user – I’ve made two of them myself. Within a group, members can show off their photos and hold discussions similar to a forum.

As the world becomes more populated, less diverse, and more interspersed, people are increasingly searching for ways to express themselves and share with others. Look at the explosion in chatting, blogging, and online photography sites. People are screaming out to the world in masses and trying to be heard.

Photography used to be a fairly small interest group – expensive, time consuming, and difficult to receive feedback on. Only 10 years ago, if I was living in Indonesia think about my options for keeping in touch: the phone, mail, and umm a plane ticket? Now I can write this post, take a photo of what I did today, and upload it within seconds to a site reaching anywhere in the world. I can chat with my dad who otherwise would never call, and receive feedback on photos that otherwise would sit in my desk drawer for eternity. People are becoming photographers – and quite good ones. The quality of photoblogs has sharply risen even in the past year.

Why am I promoting a site like this? Do I have shares in the company? Is my brother the CEO?

I wish.

I simply wish to see a company succeed when they finally “get it’. I’m rarely impressed by sites of this kind, so when it happens, I’ll speak up.

For those of you interested in checking it out:

My photo portfolio on flickr
My “group” about anything Indonesian

You can also create a “badge” that will display randomly changing images on your website – pretty damn cool. Check out my WordPress blog for an example.

Flickr is not perfect. There are still some bugs to be worked out, perhaps that’s why it’s still in “beta” form. I’m not seeing the real benefit or need to shell out the $40 to become a pro member – I think the free account suits me just fine. The google advertising is minutely annoying, and sometimes my photos don’t show up as planned. But what the hell, I’ll give it a whirl – and you know what? It’d be a lot more fun having a bunch of you join as well.

Ok, I’m going to pull my nose out of Flickr’s ass now and get some shut eye.
Sampai jumpa.


Ok, so I’m trying to make a decision but could use a little help.

Should I make TWO separate blogs, one for writing and one as a photoblog, and keep both addresses? OR delegate one of them as my single outpouring of creativity and rantings both visually and intellectually? Do you prefer to have more writing or photos?