It’s been a long journey for me to get to where I am today as a visual storyteller. This story is about Kizzi – a documentary style photography project we recently launched on our blog called “Stories” – a platform we created to tell inspirational photographic stories about woman and humanity in Melbourne and around the world.
But my story started in a world very far away from this one.
My humble beginning to photography
I was born in Indonesia and have spent the majority of my childhood through adulthood living and working in Jakarta, the capital city. Now, I currently reside in Melbourne, Australia; and I work as a visual storyteller (photographer and filmmaker).
I have always been interested in photography ever since I can remember. I never understood until now, why I have always been drawn to admiring beautiful and powerful imagery in printed magazines; and how I always loved taking pictures with a very basic film camera that my family owned. I thought being a professional photographer was so cool, as they often get to travel around the world on assignments capturing those images.
In 2010, both my life-partner and my work contract ended, and we took that as a big sign from the universe. So, we decided to take the plunge and build our own creative business, Agent Morphe. That year, I also decided to give myself a birthday present by putting myself through a part-time photography college. That was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.
A year in, juggling part-time work, part-time study, whilst starting a new creative business at the same time… the work load and financial side of things were taking a toll on me. And I knew that something had to give, or else, I will.
By that time, I had gained enough of a good foundation from what I had learnt through college, I knew that I could learn the rest of the ‘photography stuff’ in the real world, so I left my photography studies.
I did all sorts of photography in my earlier career; from action / sports photography, to food, to still-life and commercial. But I have always loved and had a calling to editorial and documentary photography, especially when there is an opportunity to showcase women in the forefront; there’s something really powerful about that.
My journey to visual storytelling
I believe my interest in visual storytelling came earlier on from reading colourful superhero comic books growing up. I have never considered myself much of a reader, or a writer. I communicate better visually; and capturing people’s stories through a series of photographs (instead of one single image) made a lot more sense in my mind.
My Fujifilm camera journey began when I approached Fujifilm Australia for a street photography project about Melbourne, called Project 23 back in 2015. The idea was to be as discreet and as light as possible, photographing the streets of Melbourne, using “one body one lens” mirrorless camera system, Fujifilm X100S.
At the time, I was using a Nikon D810 full frame DSLR and its ecosystem. I loved that camera and it will always have a special place in my heart, as I used Nikon throughout most of my professional photography career.
But as I grow (both as a person and photographer), my interests and needs change as well. I also started my journey on minimalism where I re-focused my priorities and paid attention to things that really mattered to me, which included my photography gear and career.
There came a point that even though I loved my Nikon gear, I grew tired of it; not because of its capability; but rather because of the sheer size and weight of it. Whenever I picked up my Nikon DSLR, it always reminded me of ‘work’ instead of ‘play’ – and the feeling I got when I was using the Fujifilm X100S for that project was play. It was such a joy and simple camera to use. The Fujifilm X-Series truly reignited the fire of photography again in me.
Being a minimalist
As a minimalist, everything I own needs to either bring me joy or serve a purpose. The gear I own, the clothing I wear, my way of living, represents who I am to a degree, so they have to ‘work’ for me.
So my next natural step was to gradually sell all of my Nikon gear which I did by mid 2018. Leaving a system that I’m used to, and love was a big deal – but I have moved entirely to the Fujifilm ecosystem and that is how I operate today ☺
My current camera set up is pretty simple and light – exactly what I set out to achieve and what I am about. I always love the idea of having a ‘one body one lens’ system – so between myself and my partner we own:
Fujifilm X-H1 and XF 35mm F2 R WR
Fujifilm X-T3 with XF 23mm F2 R WR (my partner’s)
Along with additional gear such as microphones, tripods and a small portable light.
Comparing a DLSR and mirrorless system is like comparing apples and oranges ☺ But if I have to split hairs, the advantages of mirrorless camera in my opinion, would be the obvious size and weight difference. Mirrorless camera system is smaller and lighter. The ‘non-obtrusive gear’ allows me to get ‘closer’ to my subject matter and focus on my visual storytelling, rather than ‘the gear’.
Kizzi is an amazing human being who is very kind, open and humble about her life and her life experiences. She is telling her story in the hope that other girls that have been through similar scenarios will be empowered by it.
Kizzi is an amazing barber with a gift. She works at Smith Street Barber in Melbourne and she also manages the shop. She is one of the ‘movers and shakers’ in the barber industry and definitely a force to be reckoned with.
Photographing Kizzi inside and outside the barbershop was actually a lot smoother than we had anticipated. I believe this was due to good planning, knowing the site well and being really respectful and flexible on the day. We understood that Smith Street Barber was going to be fully operating during this documentary-style photography shoot; and that meant we had to be extremely mindful, respectful and flexible in accommodating and ‘inserting ourselves’ in the midst of it all.
The same philosophy for when photographing Kizzi outside the barbershop, when interviewing her and capturing her story and emotions whilst she was telling us her story. Her story was sensitive, so we also needed to make sure Kizzi felt comfortable and able to be herself. Our goal was to make sure we captured Kizzi, being Kizzi – to shine the light on her true self. That’s what I get most excited about with photography and storytelling.
Our emphasis was on creating good visual storytelling, with the photographs being the main element of the story – so we needed the perfect gear to get the job done: we used our Fujifilm X-H1 with Fujinon XF23mm F2 R WR, Fujifilm X-Pro2 with Fujinon XF35mm F2 R WR and Fujifilm X-T2 with Fujinon XF35mm F2 R WR – and only used the available natural light in and outside the shop.
Knowing what we wanted to achieve earlier on, having the right gear that we could trust, and a good action plan, with open transparent communication with our subject matter, made the whole process very organic and flow nicely.
A large part of visual storytelling is about the connection you have with the story and the subject matter, and the passion you yourself bring to the project. The other part is the tools of your trade.
It doesn’t matter what brand or type of camera you use to create your visuals. At the end of the day, whatever you end up choosing, it needs to bring you joy, it needs to ‘gel’ with you, and it needs to be so effortless that you want to constantly pick up your camera to create more beautiful imagery on your journey to becoming a better visual storyteller. ☺
“I am a very passionate visual storyteller who love to shine the light on things that matter. Photography & film to me are far more than just pointing a camera and clicking a button. I care deeply about what I do, the people I chose to work with, and the projects that I chose to take on. It’s about humanity, their stories, the connection and emotion evoked from it.”