To View Bali from a US Travel & Press Photojournalist’s Eye

John Stanmeyer photographing a Melasti cermony in 2006 on the island of Bali using a Holga. Photo by Ib Putra Adnyana.

John Stanmeyer is a US travel and press photojournalist who is the author of WAR — New York, Afghanistan, Iraq; Rethink — Consequences of 9/11; and Tsunami. He and his family lived in Canggu, Bali, between 2003 and 2008, and has made his fourth book namely Island of the Spirits.

The Island of the Spirits showcases 56 black-and-white photos taken with a $25 Chinese-made plastic camera, Holga. He chose this camera because, according to him, it often captures images in a blurred and grainy manner; a style that best depicted the overall idea he was trying to capture in the book. The result is a book full of surreal, rich, black-and-white images that often feel both distinctly modern and ancient at the same time.

“I wanted to show Bali with one foot in the present and the other foot firmly rooted in the past,” said Stanmeyer. He chose such way because the book is intended to show how the richness of Balinese culture and the connectedness of the people to their traditions and gods is in a fragile state right now and, if not preserved, could be lost to forces of modernization and development. “Young Balinese no longer learn their traditional language like before,” said Stanmeyer, and moreover, he pointed out that sometimes the Balinese themselves are the last to recognize the greatness of their culture. “When I show them these photos, they often say, ‘Wow!’ ” With these photos, he said, “I want to remind the Balinese that they have an amazing culture.”

The book is scheduled to go on sale in September by the Afterhours Group, and Lans Brahmantyo, a representative of the Afterhours Group, said, “This book is an outsider’s view of vanishing Balinese traditions and culture.” has noted that the book has been launched on August 12, 2010, at the Galeri 678, Jl. Kemang Selatan 125A, South Jakarta.,

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