Hengki Koentjoro’s fine art photography goes far beyond the perfect light and shadow drawings of black and white. A native Indonesian, he summits the peaks of the mountains of Java, where the air grows thin. The images he returns with are wide expanses and atmospheric, dense moments. Koentjoro is essentially both an ardent observer and fascinating sculptor of nature. He learned his craft at the Brooks Institute for Photography in Santa Barbara, California. For him, to see and feel nature is both freeing and inspirational. In order to translate a landscape directly into black and white, he lets his imagination run wild, slipping into surprising artistic roles. Thus he looks as if through the eyes of a Buddhist monk across the rainforests of Java from the temple site of Borobudur. Or composes a landscape drama of clouds and mountaintops, in which the spacious depths seems to be skillfully set in relation to concretely represented forms and proximities. The perspectives he employs in his images overwhelm time and again. Clouds and mountain-crests appear so high yet so near as if the sky plays by different rules in Indonesia. Koentjoro lists Michael Kenna as his greatest role model; like Kenna, he has a fine sense for monochromatic tones and fosters subject-oriented minimalism. His style thus appears astoundingly certain and rich in form. Shot in a dense, lively atmosphere and exaggerated through a narrative or visual drama, Koentjoro transforms fleeting snapshots of nature into lengthy moments of timeless, natural beauty.
Please briefly tell us about the process of developing your personal style and its evolution.
I have many idols in photography. The 2 most influential figures are Ansel Adams and Michael Kenna. I pray much mimic their style in the beginning and after times you start to break some rules in order to develop your own style. It is not overnight, it takes time to maturely develop your own style.
We admire the exquisite level of detail in all your works. Where does your inspiration come from?
It’s in the detail! Details can capture the attention of the viewer; I think it is the difference between a good photo and an excellent one. It is small but it adds up. Details are the element that sticks with the viewers for a long time.
You mentioned that your photography work explores the borders of light and shadow - yin and yang. Do you look forward to transmit a message with your creative process?
Yes, as much as I can but it all depends on what nature has to offer. I never search for specific things when photographing; I just take advantage of every situation offered to me by Mother Nature.
We find your series of artworks “Altitud” fascinating. Was it difficult to elaborate this series? Please tell us more about it.
The most important key is to wake up very early in the morning, the mist is blanketing the earth thus adding the mystic and mystery of the overall atmosphere and nuance. Most of my photographs were taken before 8 am and after 5 pm.
When you are out shooting— Can you tell us what are the main challenges you have experienced?
To get there is the most challenging aspect of photography. You have to track and climb the mountain. There is a big effort to get to your spot and the rest is easy once you are there.
What has been the biggest satisfaction that you experienced in your photographic career?
You get the change to express our soul, you communicate visually to the audience. My rule of thumb is if a viewer sees my photos for at least 5 seconds then I’m happy
No matter what you’re photographing, you always use excellent composition. Between all your series, which one is your favorite and why?
I have no favorite because each situation demands a different approach to the composition. But, most of the composition is inspired by my idol Michael Kenna; he has a keen ability to position the subject in a perfect location thus accentuating the overall mood of the image.
You are a well-known figure in this field and an inspiration for many young artists. There is any artists that influenced and inspired you at the beginning of your career?
Yes, Ansel Adam for taking me to the journey of perfect tonality in Black and White and Michael Kenna for the art of composition. Tonality and composition are the 2 most important elements in my style of photography.
Congratulations for being one of the Hasselblad Ambassadors. Can you tell us about this experience and what opportunities you expect it will bring to you in the future?
Many opportunities. Hasselblad is medium format camera with a sensor so much bigger than the regular DSLR, that means it produces better dynamic range, richer color gamut, smoother gradation and the ability to blow up a much bigger print better than any DSLR. They provide me with the X1D camera and I love it so much and it’s just the beginning, looking forward to next year.
What are your ambitions and goals for the coming years?
At the moment I’m concentrating more on exhibitions to promote to a bigger audience and along the way, I would really love to print my 4th solo books in the future. Another prospect is to have a photo tour or workshop in my native country Indonesia.