Black and white tonality captures pure expression across land and underwater.

Photographer Hengki Koentjoro pairs inspiration from legendary masters with the latest techniques to reveal “moods and atmosphere” of Indonesia.

Hengki Koentjoro, 'Bodhi Tree', 2016, Hahnemuhle paper, 40 x 40". Image courtesy the artist.

Hengki Koentjoro, ‘Bodhi Tree’, 2016, Hahnemuhle paper, 40 x 40 in. Image courtesy the artist.

Hengki Koentjoro began his love affair with photography after being gifted a Kodak pocket camera from his parents for his eleventh birthday. Some three decades later, Koentjoro identifies, as he told Art Radar, as a full-time photographer capturing the very essence of Indonesia:

I consider myself a Fine Art photographer. Fine Art photography is a genre that is done in a personal, deeply subjective style; something that expresses the spirit of the creator. It exposes more than a merely realistic rendering of the subject and attempts to convey a personal interpretation. In my opinion, black and white photography best suits this purpose.

Hengki Koentjoro, 'Smile', 2012, Hahnemuhle paper, 17 x 17”. Image courtesy the artist.

Hengki Koentjoro, ‘Smile’, 2012, Hahnemuhle paper, 17 x 17 in. Image courtesy the artist.

Born in 1963 in Semarang, Central Java, Koentjoro graduated from California’s Brooks Institute in 1991 specialising in Film/Video Production and minoring in Black and White Photography. His work has been internationally recognised and has won top honours, including the Hasselblad Masters Award (Landscapes/Nature category), the International Photography Award (Nature/Aerial category) and PX3 Photography Competition (Nature Category/Animal and Nature/Water category).

Hengki Koentjoro. Image courtesy the artist.

Hengki Koentjoro. Image courtesy the artist.

Koentjoro’s “personal interpretation” of subject matter and form has elevated the oeuvre of monochromatic, contemplative photography, as Robert Tobin of the Tobin Ohashi Gallery in Tokyo, Japan, relayed to Art Radar:

Professional photographers visit and ask about Hengki’s technique and camera settings. Collectors come in and their jaws drop in awe because they have never seen work like this before. His work changes peoples’ ideas about photography, but even more, his work changes lives.

Hengki Koentjoro, 'Rider on the storm', 2009, Hahnemuhle paper – 17 x 25”. Image courtesy the artist.

Hengki Koentjoro, ‘Rider On The Storm’, 2009, Hahnemuhle paper – 17 x 25 in. Image courtesy the artist.

Despite the accolades that Koentjoro has collected both at home and abroad, his work has and will continue to be shaped by two world-renowned photographers Ansel Adams and Michael Kenna, as the artist told Art Radar:

My two inspirations are the great Ansel Adams and Michael Kenna. The way they produce beautiful black and white tonality is beyond words and has always captivated me. Their works motivated me to pursue a higher education at the Brooks Institute and study their trademark styles. I believe one must have idols, while developing or evolving one’s own unique style. In my case, Adams and Kenna have brought me to where I am right now. In particular, Michael Kenna has this unique style of composition and way of capturing a place’s atmosphere through simplicity.

Hengki Koentjoro, 'Rhythmic', 2014, Hahnemuhle paper, 40 x 40”. Image courtesy the artist.

Hengki Koentjoro, ‘Rhythmic’, 2014, Hahnemuhle paper, 40 x 40 in. Image courtesy the artist.

Living in such a diverse locale as Indonesia has had a marked impact on the artist and his subject matter. In an interview with Neutral Density Magazine, Koentjoro discusses the magic and mystery behind the “Abode of the Gods”:

I’m lucky to live in Indonesia because she is dubbed as the biggest archipelago nation on earth with more than 13,000 islands. We also have many highlands and active volcanoes spreading over 3275 miles from East to West. This abode of the gods is also known for its mysterious mist and fog that accentuate the thick feeling of mysticism.

Hengki Koentjoro, 'Sacred Path', 2014, Hahnemuhle paper, 24 x 24”. Image courtesy the artist.

Hengki Koentjoro, ‘Sacred Path’, 2014, Hahnemuhle paper, 24 x 24 in. Image courtesy the artist.

One of Koentjoro’s trademark categories is underwater photography, with the artist deftly and patiently capturing monochromatic images beneath the surface. As was noted on the artist’s website, this sometimes challenging territory presents an exciting opportunity:

Submerging into the undersea silence is an adventure in another world of eclectic mix of submarine beauties and appreciation of life creation—an opportunity of nothing short of a glorious honor.

Hengki Koentjoro, 'Bubble Heart', 2010, Hahnemuhle paper, 17 x 17”. Image courtesy the artist.

Hengki Koentjoro, ‘Bubble Heart’, 2010, Hahnemuhle paper, 17 x 17 in. Image courtesy the artist.

Although Koentjoro has studied his craft for most of his life, he continues to marvel, as he explained to Art Radar, at the technological advances that are bringing new interest to the genre and providing artists with a vast, global audience:

This genre is rapidly gaining ground with the introduction to new computer technology and the Internet. It is now much easier than before to create black and white photos. In addition to using a traditional darkroom, computer technology has made this task so much easier, if not much better and more precise. The Internet is the icing on the cake. Now for the first time, everybody can share his or her work to the world in an instant, something that was only a dream several years ago. I believe we’re now living in the golden era of photography.

Lisa Pollman


Related Topics: art as meditationIndonesian artistsnaturephotographyprofiles

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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