Ever since Hengki Koentjoro received a pocket camera as a child, he has been hooked on cameras. This passion ultimately led him to pursue an education at the Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, California. As he grew in his art, one of is influences was American photographer Ansel Adams. This brought him towards exuding moody and brooding imagery in his photographs. One example is his portfolio of underwater photos shot in Indonesian waters using dramatic black and white. It is uncommon in its approach, avoiding the splendid rainbows of color that is often depicted of the undersea world. It instead conveys a mysterious, dark and sometimes menacing feeling, which might actually be more faithful to the genuine nature of the enigmatic seas.
Koentjoro explains his reasons for choosing monochrome as his medium, “I love black and white because of Ansel Adams and the fact that B&W is more pliable. It is much easier to express one emotion through B&W. The tonal quality of B&W is just beautiful, and I love to play around with the tones to create atmospheric photographs. It is also easy to venture to the unreal, the surrealist, the mystical, and the mysterious with these 3 tones and others in between. B&W is expression, and I believe you should put soul in your works to make it personal and unique.”
Koentjoro, now 50, is at present based in Jakarta. Though he studied in the U.S., he went back to Indonesia where he established himself as a freelance videographer/editor, focusing in nature documentaries and corporate profiles. Monochrome photography and the system pioneered by Adams, still remains a core influence to his work, as evidenced by his underwater shots.
“Ansel Adams is an inspiration for me,” he is quick to point out in an interview with the Jakarta Globe. “I’ve been studying and learning his trademark method, called the zone system. This system teaches that the perfect photograph should expose all tones ranging from the blackest black to the whitest white. This awareness of an image’s contrast is an element I consider in every photograph I take.” He also says that he is driven by his love for the ocean with its calmness in particular, referring to it as “a place to replenish your mind.”
See his brooding images of the underwater world here.