Photographer Narya Abhimata – who shot our cover and fashion spreads this issue – is doing exactly what he wants to do, thank you very much. Interview Nigel Simmonds.
Narya, we’re all interested in how you grew up and how you became a visual artist. What’s the story?
I was pretty much given the freedom of expressing my artistic side from a very young age. My parents fully supported that by getting me drawing books, crayons and paints so that I would stop using their bedroom walls as my canvas. I’ve always been that weird, artistic kid … I’ve never really been into sports or super-masculine things. I played with both my Ninja Turtle figurines and my sister’s American Girls dolls. I loved custom building things with my Lego … I’ve built theme parks with fully working cable cars that take my little Lego people up and down a steep hill. I love playing video games that need me to manage cities and zoos. I guess I like things that need problem-solving skills, which contributes fully to what I am doing now. As a visual artist I have to problem-solve and to constantly think of creative ways to achieve things.
When you were growing up, is this the life that you envisaged for yourself?
Truthfully I cannot imagine myself doing anything other than what I’m doing now. Me as an accountant? Never in a million years.
How did you find being an Indonesian in Sydney, when you studied there? Or London?
I find going or living overseas very eye-opening and inspiring. For me, Indonesia is more restrictive when it comes to creative expression and freedom, especially in Jakarta. When I lived in Sydney and London, my creative mojo was constantly brewing. Ideas can be found anywhere, museums, galleries are abundant. People are strange, beautiful and unapologetic. The energy is powerful and is constantly around and it makes you want to create things every single day.
Did you spend much time as an assistant, or intern? Did you learn your trade from someone awesome, and are you still in touch with them?
I have never assisted, I just went out there with courage and a bit of delusion, ha ha ha! But I have interned once as a graphic designer at an agency back in Jakarta in 2008, after that I’ve been taking on the world solo. However, I believe that I am always a student, so I don’t think I will stop learning . . . it’s easier to do this nowadays since everything is basically online; seminars, tutorials . . . you name it and the internet has it. I also learn from my friends, fellow photographers and artists that I met here as well as overseas . . . and yes I am still in touch with some of them.
You seem so well educated internationally, how has that journey been for you?
It has been very special and I feel super grateful to have been able to do that. My view of the world as well as how I creatively approach my work were shaped during those years overseas. I learned, struggled and achieved a lot, and I wouldn’t be who I am today without those experiences.
What’s most important to you today about visual imagery, and how you deal with it?
Character, point of view and the ability to tell a story are very important to create any kind of visual. These are the three things I’m constantly improving with my own work.
What equipment do you use?
Canon 5DmkIVfor stills and Sony A7SIII / FX3 / FX60 / Arri Alexa for videos (also depends on client’s budget!)
Who is the best client you ever worked for (apart from The Yak he he)?
What does fashion mean to you?
Fashion is a lifestyle choice. Most people think that fashion is just clothes, but almost all your lifestyle choices count as fashion: the way you dress, the food you eat, the devices you use daily . . . all the desirable things you choose to own and use to present yourself to the world as an individual . . . those things count as fashion!
How do you stay consistently fresh with your ideas and concepts in photography and videography?
I try to get outside my comfort zone. I work in fashion most of the time so I try to find inspiration and references outside of that world. Also, never stop learning new ways to give your work variety. Experiment with things you never tried before!
What’s the most frequent phrase you hear from clients that pisses you off?
‘Could you make (whatever I’m making for them) pop more?’
How can clients be better at being clients?
Knowing what they want is always a good start.
Are you threatened at all about the potential of Artificial Intelligence?
Not at all. No amount of technological advances can replace an artist’s soul.
What makes you happy?
Good food. Good company. DOGS!
If you were to die tomorrow, what would be the last thought in your head?
‘What’s for dinner?’
Where can we meet you, or see your work?
I am now residing in Bali, mostly staying at home with my two French bulldogs ordering take outs from cheap eateries around Kerobokan. You can see my work on my website www.naryaabhimata.com and my Instagram @naryaabhimata