An editing session with Photographer Andri Tambunan and Picture Editor Mike Davis on Andri’s long term project ‘Against All Odds’ on the under-reported AIDS pandemic in Indonesia’s Papau province. ‘Against All Odds’ was also the inaugural winner of the Reminders Project Asian Photographers Grant at the Angkor Photo Festival, 2011.
“Change is inevitable, growth is intentional”
Spending 6 months in Papua I shot thousands of images both in digital and in analog. Perhaps one of the most challenging tasks for me is to edit my own work. Almost all the great photographers that I’ve come across are either great editors or worked with some of the best ones in the business.
To me, the editing process is more than post-production in Lightroom or Photoshop. In fact, the procedure begins from the moment we look through the viewfinder. One of the worst things that could happen is if we fail to capitalize given a rare opportunity. A photographer works in the present and has a fraction of a second to make a compelling image. Sometimes we get lucky but I wouldn’t count on chance.
I realize that in order to hone my voice as a photographer I need to become a better editor. And I think it starts with looking at my own work and being able to make the distinction between great photographs from mediocre ones.
To help me with this task I connected with freelance editor Mike Davis. I asked Mike to sort through 565 selected images – a super loose edit. I organized them into separate folders depending on specific events and themes. This enabled him to view my full take and approach to that particular situation.
This particular video clip is a scene of a common traditional method of healing in Papua that involves killing a pig to cure HIV/AIDS. The family of a man who is dying of AIDS bought an expensive pig from the market. They killed the pig by piercing its heart with a knife. Then they cut it open and examined its organs. It is believed that the pig’s internal and blood reflects the condition of the sick person. Thus, cleaning the internal organs and removing the “dirty blood” and parasites that they believed to be the cause of the disease could cure the dying man.
Out of 25 images, only 2 were selected for the final edit. Did I learn anything? Most definitely. I am more aware of my approach and tendency and I notice more composition elements than before. Photography is a way of seeing and in order to expand our vision we need to have the willingness to view beyond our peripheral.
Ultimately, capturing the essence of the moment starts with understanding what works and doesn’t work. One of the best ways to do that is to stay open minded to constructive criticisms. Having an editor to work with is advantageous but I think having a group of friends that could give you an honest feedback is as beneficial.
We should always strive to make better pictures and this of course takes time and effort and we will experience some tension along the way. Nevertheless, “tension creates growth. If you are comfortable, you are probably not growing.” (Mike Davis).