SIS JIMBO-RING OF FIRE
SIS JIMBO-RING OF FIRE
Photographer SIS JIMBO
Ignites His Country,
One Photograph At A Time
by Mina Thevenin, Editor
Photography by Indonesian Photographer Sis Jimbo
Headphones on and listening to old jazz beats that anyone might recognize, Sis sits on the floor mattress and looks out the window onto his garden and ornamental pond. The smells of a cooking omelet waft through the room and a thin line of smoke swirls to the ceiling from his cigarette. This draws his attention back to the computer and the images before him. He sips the coffee, fresh and hot, and draws a long drag from his smoke. The images are from his recent trip to the Baduy tribe in West Java.
Sis speaks fondly about this ethnic, Sundanese-Indonesian tribe, untouched by modern culture and technology. “This tribe still maintain their ancestral traditions to this day,” he tells me through our writing correspondence, describing that tribe members are punished if they break against tradition and use technology, automobiles, or even the wearing of shoes. “They only use their feet to go, and they never pay a visit to me. Traveling from their village to my house in Bekasi [is] approximately [a] two-day trip on foot!”
What do Sis and the relatively untouched Baduy Indonesian tribe have in common? They both live on the beautiful tropical island of Java, just two miles east of Bali. One of 18,000 counted archipelago Indonesian islands (1), this part of the world is known as the “ring of fire” because of four hundred volcanoes- ninety of which are active, periodic earthquakes, and tsunamis. Java is approximately 6 degrees south of the equator. (In relation to South America, it sits a little north of the middle of Brazil.)This tropical Indonesian island is birth place and home to photographer, Sis Jimbo, where he has lived and worked for over forty years.
Born in East Java’s Baku, north of Malang, Sis now lives in the western part of the island in the city of Bekasi with his wife of twenty-two years and their three sons. Located in one of Indonesia’s thirty-three provinces, the city of Bekasi sits on the border of the country’s capital- Jakarta(2).
For four centuries, until the mid-20th century, the Netherlands had political control over Indonesia thru the spice trade and Indonesia was known as the Netherlands East Indies or Dutch East Indies. World War II brought the occupation of Japan over the archipelago Indonesia. Today, though, Indonesia is known formally as the Republic of Indonesia and has for more than half a century stood as an established independent Republic.(3)
Sis’s native language is Indonesian, although he is quite fluent in English. Our conversations and interviews have been conducted through email and IM chat. When asked about his family of origin, Sis shared, “I come from a simple family. My grandfather came from the Netherlands, who married the girl of Java, and my father was born.” Tragically, when Sis was a child, his father was killed serving his country in patriotic duty as a Marine. It was Sis’s mother who raised him. She has also since passed. “My childhood memories are very gloomy, because I had not had a father.”
Sis is the photographer and owner at Rangers at Ble-Kok Photography Indoensia. He is interested in showing people his beautiful island of Java, with a philosophy that is in keeping with making friends- not just visitors. “I have a dream, everyone can go hand in hand, without hostility, without distinction !” ~Sis Jimbo As a photographer, I have followed Sis for a little over a year. Some of his more personal photographs he has shared are images of his children and family. Titles of these photographs have included “My Hope,” as the title of images of his children, and image titles that honor the challenges of mothers and veterans. Perhaps there is an honor and celebration of family spirit in these images he captures- celebrating life, in spite of his many losses in his own youth. Just as I find that Sis Jimbo celebrates life in photography, he also recognizes the need to create social change by bringing awareness to the more difficult humanitarian struggles. Sis describes listening to his inner voice about when to “take this photo and capture.”
One such photograph in particular of a baby with a plump, innocent face. She is nested in a fabric, back lit from either side. Sis published this in early November, 2014, on National Geographic “Your Shot”, Sis Jimbo. When I asked him about this particular image, he told me that it was a baby of a homeless woman. Sis titled the photograph, “Stop Child Abuse.” This particular child, Sis hopes, is not being abused and he has no reason to think she is. But by giving the image of this beautiful baby such a powerful declaration, “Stop Child Abuse”, Sis hopes to bring greater awareness to an urgency that affects all of us in the world. And if one looks even briefly at his photography, it is evident that the voice of consciousness is often seen in his candid “street photography” and portraits.
“The world of photography is actually a conscience that is realized through the camera!” ~Sis Jimbo
“Sis, one thing that really stands out to me about your photography, is your awareness of humanity and capturing the human spirit. Was this something that has always been a part of you, or has it developed because of your photography?” “Basically we live in this world to help each other, even though I was not rich but I am trying to help others in need. With photography I can help them- proclaim their true situation…Although I [am] often labeled crazy, they were surprised by my simple- I can help others and answer their questions, ‘God is always with me.’” Another example of Sis’s consciousness and charity is exemplified when a homeless man knocked on Sis’s door for food. A family of good Samaritans, Sis’s wife prepared the meal and they served him. With the man’s permission, Sis took a portrait image of him, but “because [his] face [was] reminiscent of my deceased mother,” Sis chose not to publish it. It is not only through photography that Sis is active in areas of social awareness. When Indonesia was hard hit by the 2004 tsunami, Sis began extensive volunteer efforts. His background studies in international relations, coupled with his own personal experiences and spiritual beliefs, have knitted Sis to be a man with well-worn gloves of helping hands. Several times in my interview with him, Sis emphasized his life’s motto, “Life is short. Be a human, being useful to others.”
Sis lights another cigarette as we continue with the interview. He studies the images of the Baduy tribe in front of him again, and tells me about his Nikon D80 and his favorite 85 mm lens. Digital photography was an easy adjustment for him and he never did any of the old film developing process himself. He smiles and takes a puff from his cigarette, “A funny experience occurred when I was hunting at Lake Maninjau, West Sumatra.” Sis wanted to photograph the sunrise at the summit of Mount Rinjani on the lake, lake Maninjau . He had hunted all day, and night was quickly falling. Finally he hiked into the lake area but it was already pitch black. Tired from exhaustion, he simply lay down where he was and would awake in several hours to photograph the Surprise! Exquisite sunrise.
Sis fell quickly asleep, “like a soldier who was lying down.” He smiles and finishes his story, because it was not until daylight when he awoke to photograph the beautiful sunrise that he realized he had been sleeping “around a lot of cow dung!”
Our interview together ends with Sis expressing his deep pride and love for his family, and his beautiful country- Indonesia. Photography is most undoubtedly a part of who he is and how he reaches his community. A photographer with an eye for capturing social consciousness, Sis, like the Baduy tribe, stands for the keeping of basic values- love of family, love of community and country, and the ideals of helping fellow humans.
Sis Jimbo dreams, “I’m not anyone, and do not have anything. I had [have] only a million stories, about the beauty of my country…lullabies to offspring grandson!”
Connect with Indonesia’s Photographer
SIS JIMBO-RING OF FIRE
(1) World Atlas, Indonesia. http://www.worldatlas.com/webimage/countrys/asia/id.htm
(2) “Administrative Map of the Republic of Indonesia” http://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/map/indonesia_admin_map.htm
(3) Republic of Indonesia. http://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/indonesia.htm