An Interview with Dani Subagja

Photograph © Dani Subagja

I have been following Dani Subagja’s blog for a long time and enjoying his pictures from Hong Kong. He is indeed one of Indonesia’s talented photographers. Dicky Jiang contacted him and help me pass along these questionnaires. About Dani himself, to borrow the words from Dicky:

“I came across Dani’s work while browsing around through another fellow photoblogger. The way he could capture random moments in an urban environment, with the interaction of the streetscapes, the people and the elements in a blink of an eye, has amazed me.”

Hi Dani, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m male. I like going out, but I’m not an outgoing person. I’m part of generation X (what the heck is that!) or young adults in some of age group theories. Aw…aw…

When was your first encounter with photography? Do you still remember your first camera and first picture ever taken?

I took some photos with my father’s Yashica when I was in Junior High for documentary purpose (family and friends photos). However, I consider myself started doing photography in 2005. Back then my camera was Panasonic FZ-3 with first interest on Hong Kong skyscrapers.

Photograph © Dani Subagja

You’re Indonesian who takes pictures in Hong Kong (and on early posts, pictures of Vietnam). What do you do for a living?

I’ve been residing in Hong Kong for several years. I’m helping with one of Hong Kong registered charity organizations and doing photo documentation for several social events.

You have a day-job and a family, yet you have to find time to take pictures (and edit them) and maintaining a blog. Any practical tips on how you do it all? I believe there are many people with the same case.

I’m lucky that my life and my daily living is not complicated and quite flexible. I prefer evening to night time to develop the negatives, scan them, and doing the blog. I’m bringing my camera wherever I go and therefore, I give myself opportunity to take picture almost every time.

Photograph © Dani Subagja

How important is it for a photographer to have a blog?

I think having blog is very important for photographer who wants to share his/her creative works with others. Furthermore, for me it is the way to enjoy my own photos.

We see that you have a special interest in human on the streets (thus your blog name “Street Moments”). What prompted you to start taking pictures on the streets?

Street represents the dynamic communal place/environment; where “split seconds” are happening all the time. There are lots of unexpected encounters. There are also chances to be close with others while I am still able to opt to be stranger to them or not. Other than that, it’s a wise way to make use of good pair of walking shoes [“Get a good pair of walking shoes and …fall in love” is Abbas advice for young photographers in one of his interviews].

Photograph © Dani Subagja

We also see that you have a keen eye on geometry. How important is it as a factor in your composition?

I guess l naturally like geometry . I can say I rarely prepare what I’m going to photograph. While taking photos, the geometry just comes naturally; especially in the place like Hong Kong which is rich of geometrical scenes. I find it’s pretty interesting to get composition of combined geometry + people + (specific) moment.

Why black & white?

In my opinion, black & white photo somehow is more able to tell the depth of the story; something beyond the color (black & white) itself since it might be easier to get disrupted by the colors of photo with more colors. I agree both colors and black & white work better for certain subjects. I think colors photo describes the subject while black & white photos narrates the subject. As additional to that, I guess it also has to do with my personal taste. I find black & white photos appeal to me and inspired me better.

Photograph © Dani Subagja

What is your most memorable picture? Can you share the story?

This is difficult; I’m very fond of many pictures I have taken. Among them are the photos I took in southern Vietnam. I think I’ve been obsessed with Vietnam and its history. I traveled there for about 14 days and did some tours to the interesting historical places with cool travel guides. I made new friends who took me to distinctive local eatery and to try distinctive local cuisine. I met cyclo driver who requested me to take photo with him and his cyclo without any reward. I met a war veteran who was very keen to be photographed as well as to exchange email addresses. I felt quite safe there although it’s a strange land. The food fit my taste buds. What else I can say; it’s sort of a perfect journey to me.

What do you want to achieve in photography? Your goal, plan or even a dream.

As simple as to capture the specific moment and scene, then to tell them in the present time; as ambitious as to rewind the photographs again in the future.

Photograph © Dani Subagja

Who is your inspiration in life & photography?

In life: my better half, feeling of comfort, good days, nights, and music.

In photography: black & white photos, especially magnum photos.

What do you like to do when not taking pictures?

Spending time with person(s) I’m comfort with, watching movies, sleeping, and doing computer/internet-related things.

What is the meaning of photography to you?

I couldn’t find suitable words to describe it well, please advise me :)).

Photography is a real deal to me; I have loyal feeling to it, it relates closely with my mind and my character, it simply helps me to figure out myself and to record my encounters with other subjects.


ALL IMAGES © Dani Subagja

You can see more of his works on his blog, Street Moments.

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