Every individual has his or her uniqueness and soul wherein Indra Leonardi captures through his photography savvy.
“Photography is general, but style is personal,” Indra adds saying that a photographer should have his or her own style. “You can learn photography with all the techniques in camera, lightning and so on. But a photographer should possess a sense of art in order to produce an artistic style of images.”
It is true that the value of art in a portrait often lies in the eye of the beholder, but the good portrait is the one that captures soul.
A portrait should reveal the personality and character of any particular person. In order to produce such masterpiece, therefore, Indra always starts a photo session with a warm and friendly chat to find the soul and figure of the person to be photographed.
“Transferring a physical object into a photograph should include the object’s soul and character,” Indra explains. “This should not be limited to a photo session of an individual, but also a group of people such as family and organisation.”
Understanding the character is also done by Indra through building a dialogue with not only individuals or a group of people, but also the venue where a photo shoot takes place. “Be it in a house or an office, it is important that a photographer be familiar with the venue in order to capture a soulful scene.”
With photography under his belt for more than fifteen years, Indra has produced myriad works which have been displayed in many exhibitions in Indonesia and overseas. No less important, his great achievements have long been echoed to the international realm, as he has conferred a number of accolades such as Fellowship Degree from The American Society of Photographer, Fellowship Degree from British Institute of Professional Photographers, Master of Photography from Professional Photographers of America, to name a few.
Among the high-profile figures Indra has photographed are President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former U.S. President George Bush.
What motivated you to dive into the world of photography?
I grew up surrounded by the objects of photography. The presence of my father, uncles and some other family members as photographer indeed stimulated my interest in photography. I often took pictures for my high-school’s organisation. But my exciting experience began when I was sent to Singapore for studying Japanese. I utilized my evening time to work for Watanabe, a Japanese professional photographer who worked for Dentsu Advertising. That was during 1983-84. My interest in photography was getting deeper as I furthered my education in the U.S. And another exciting experience followed.
Could you tell me more?
Upon my graduation from Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, California in 1987, I worked for Merrett Smith, a famous photographer specialising in photographing Hollywood stars, presidents and other high-profile figures. This guy took great pictures of Michael Jackson, former U.S. President Nixon, Ronald Reagan and many more. I worked with him for a year before going back to Jakarta for good.
Have you ever since taken charge of running King Photo?
Yes. I have taken part in running King Photo since I got back from the U.S. My father, Gunawan Leonardi, is the one who founded and started the business 60 years ago.
Do you believe that a good photographer is the one who possesses talent?
It reminds me with the Albert Einstein’s phrase, “Success is 10 percent of inspiration and 90 percent of perspiration.” People born with a talent have more potential to achieve a great success, not only in photography but also other professional career fields. But if they don’t use their talent, their potential will be depleted. In many cases, people achieve a success owing to their hard work.
In your own words, do you think photography and art are more appreciated in Indonesia compared with the past?
When comparing with advanced countries, Indonesia is still behind. We need to learn to appreciate more. But we have very much in progress. The presence of new galleries witnesses how Indonesian people start appreciating the value of art. I also own a photo gallery, Leonardi Portraiture in Mitra Hadiprana Kemang. We collaborate with a lot of artists.
Are you an art collector?
It’s been twenty years. I try to appreciate genres from expressionism to contemporary, though I favour the latter most. The paintings of Agus Suwage, Christine Aytjoe and Rudi Mantofani are among my favourites.
What are your free-time like?
My free-time is where I get together with my wife, Lily and my daughter and son, Christie and Peter, respectively. Exploring foods in town often colours our weekends. We also love travelling on vacation.
What is your favourite travel destination?
For the local destination, Bali is still the best. This exotic place is truly beautiful. I especially like the hotels and the hospitality of Balinese people toward visitors. I don’t have any particular places that I like the most for overseas destination. But I always spare sometime to visit museum and gallery when travelling. Europe and New York are great destination for a museum visit. I also like Los Angeles and admire Japan’s gallery, museum and architecture. When travelling with my family, I have to think of places that interest my children such as amusement parks, shopping venues and eateries.
What is your favourite food?
I like all kinds of foods. With my family, I often spend an evening dinner at Japanese and Korean restaurants. Children love the food. French cuisine served at Cassis is also appetising. Of course I like Indonesian and Chinese food such as Gado-gado and noodles. And when I return from an overseas travel, the first thing I’d like to eat is Siomay.
By Aulia R. Sungkar. Published in PMR Magazine, January 2010.