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Shooting Cities: Moving from Seattle to Jakarta

By Suridh Hassan

Shooting Cities: Moving from Seattle to Jakarta

MOVING CITIES

I recently moved from Seattle, USA back to Jakarta, Indonesia and have been thinking a lot about the similarities and differences between these two port cities in terms of shooting.

During my time in Seattle (and the stunning Pacific Northwest) I fell back in love with 35mm and have continued carrying my Nikon FM everyday in Jakarta, which has always been a great place to shoot.  With odd similarities and a lot of differences, both are port cities that have been inhabited for thousands of years by indigenous peoples and then colonised by Europeans. Both deal with the challenges of being home to the extremely rich and very poor and both cities have had a huge influence in my creative output over the past decade.

 

 

SEATTLE

Seattle is a small relaxed but moody city with natural beauty in abundance co-existing with that 21st century Amazon, Microsoft glass n’ steel vibe. Mt. Rainier is ever present and the Space Needle accents a tasty skyline silhouetted by mountains and sea. There are a lot of locations to shoot and if you drive a few minutes out of town you are at the foot of snow capped mountains, breath taking waterfalls, and the temperate rainforest of the Olympic peninsula. And a bit further over the pass is vast desert, dramatic canyons, and Washington wine country.

It does sound salesy but this part of the world is a great place for pictures and I took advantage of this in going back to the basics with 35mm and shooting my first fiction film, SODO EXPRESS.

 

 

JAKARTA

Jakarta is a huge bustling and moody city that is being dragged into the 21st century. It has recently completed its first mass rapid transit system, making it feel like a 'proper' city. But the city is sinking and so much of the city regularly floods during rainy season. However, just south of Jakarta you have the beautiful tea plantations of Bogor, and further still is Sukabumi which lies at the feet of Mount Gede which means gorgeous rice paddies and amazing landscapes. Add in the ‘1000 Islands’ which stretch from Jakarta’s northern port into the Java Sea and Jakarta is a place that I actually enjoy.

 

 

Jakarta is also a street photography city. Yes, it’s a hard place to walk thanks to a lack of pavement and you need a lot of energy to deal with the everyday busyness, but jump on the back of an ojek (motorbike taxi) and you’ll realise there's lots to shoot.

 

 

Kampung (village) life is everywhere as are street food sellers and urban wildlife. People are diverse; Javanese, Indian, Chinese, Papuan, Bule (white foreigners) and hundreds of other Indonesian and South-East Asia ethnicities around.

It’s also common to see the history and culture of the city laid bare. From the iconic Ondel-ondel (giant wearable puppets) that roam the streets representing ancestors warding off evil spirits, to the Chinese lion dances at the opening of new warungs (shops), to people selling and sometimes eating exotic animals (which I don’t condone).

There’s always something to shoot.

 

 

BACK TO SEATTLE

In comparison, Seattle has great scenic shots in and around the water and amazing 'urban photography' with that glass and steel architecture and lots of design photography. However, in terms of people it's technically diverse but remains very segregated. Seattle has a lot of social issues (mental health, drug addiction and homelessness) and I found myself documenting this, whether I wanted to or not. The grunge culture so iconic to Seattle has been long obliterated and been replaced by tech bros and that typical American grid system makes things a tad bit boring in terms of moving around the city. But the city itself is beautiful. With hills, views, walks, parks, water and hikes, it's visually lovely and I found it easy to walk my 10,000 steps everyday!

 

 

WORK FOR YOUR SHOTS

Living in Seattle made me a better photographer and filmmaker as I had to work for my shots. I could walk around with a camera all day and get nothing. So I had to organise shoots, think of locations, set aside time, produce and execute. The US is also such a creative place I was constantly thinking of ways to up my game thanks to local healthy competition. I was surrounded by great artists who did their work effortlessly and I found that inspiring.

 

 

 

Jakarta, with no pavements and too much traffic, keeps on giving material to shoot. The cityscapes are complex (sometimes insane) with the CBD and tech buildings towering over villages and herds of goats. But creatives and artists here have to battle against the elements just to get work done making them resourceful and resilient.

 

 

AND WHY IT ALL MATTERS

Seattle gave me the space and competitive environment to improve my skills whilst Jakarta might be a challenge to shoot, it's full of opportunities on a daily basis.

Both cities have taught me patience, resilience and that bit of confidence I needed in my work.

Instagram > @shazdirector_ / @suridh.hassan

My Site > http://www.shazdirector.com

Commercial > http://thesrk.comhttp://getcraft.com

 

 

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Back To 35MM

By Suridh Hassan

Back To 35MM

I spent my whole teens shooting 35mm with my Nikon FM2. It didn't take long to add some Super8mm into the mix with a Bauer C107, but then it all changed with digital.  DV tapes, PD150s, Canon XL1s, moving me quickly into the world of lens adaptors, DSLRS, ENG cameras, workflows and edit suites.

Forward to 2019, after myself and my business partner Ryo Sanada closed our ‘creative agency’ in South-East Asia, he went to Brussels, I went to Seattle and we both started the long hard slog of evolving our biz back into what it should be more of - a creative collective.

I WANT MY SOUL BACK

I needed to get back to basics. Afters years of client work in different countries and cultures, I felt my style and ideas were all mashed up. I’ve spent too much time worrying about pixels, resolution, presets and plugins. Not to mention years of client feedback. I lost a bit of the love and the craft and I needed a bit of magic to cleanse my palette. It didn’t take long to realize the answer was get back into film.


BACK TO BASICS

Constraints are some of the best things for creatives. Two rolls of black and white, a camera and a prime lens. See the light, take your time, sort your settings, get your shot. It sounds basic but with only 36 shots on normal film, you concentrate, you get selective and you care. From framing, composition, exposure you really care. You don’t just bang out 10 stills in a row, choose the best, retouch the hell out of it and deliver. Instead you care about the quality of each shot and It’s taken two rolls of film for me to feel a bit sharper.

 

    


LOVE MY DIGITAL

Of course i’m not giving up digital. One of my favourite things to do is shoot early morning or late afternoon cutaways (currently with my little Lumix GH5s for anyone who's interested). Shooting for sequence, getting lost in the audio and then working with that footage in the edit days/weeks/months (and sometimes years) later is a process i'll always love. And digital in its own way is not forgiving. You see clearly what’s over or under exposed and whether it's stills or video, you see your mistakes right there. And for those who work in moving image, there’s nothing like sitting there with an experienced editor letting you know how bad a shot is.

  


NOW WHAT

Film can be more forgiving and certain film stocks can be pushed and pulled all over the place. When you look through your viewfinder and capture that image, you don’t have clients, or your subject wanting to see what you’ve captured. There’s an element of trust across the entire shoot/location that is  important. The trust in yourself that you have the shot, the trust between you and your subject and the trust that you can deliver the work.
So I now know that film is such an important process for me, one I regret leaving years ago. I’ll incorporate it (or shoehorn it) into my own workflows as much as possible.

 

Find me here on
Instagram > @shazdirector / @bombstagram
My Site > http://www.shazdirector.com
Commercial > http://thesrk.com

 

 

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Burmese Daze

By Suridh Hassan

Burmese Daze
There’s lots online about the mysticism of Myanmar, the 1000 year old pagodas and the atmosphere, but really it’s about the people. 

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In Transition – Moving from Documentary to Fiction Filmmaking

By Suridh Hassan

In Transition – Moving from Documentary to Fiction Filmmaking
My latest film SODO EXPRESS is quite freeform – i’ve been shooting and writing and editing as I go along and its given me the freedom to combine what I know from documentary with a fiction storyline.

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LayRoots – Estate Planning For Creatives

By Suridh Hassan

LayRoots – Estate Planning For Creatives

Estate planning. It’s the new thing in my life. Having a kid switched up a lot. Now there’s not just me and my missus plus our stuff (artwork, furniture, hard drives of footage) which is scattered between the US Europe and Asia thanks to a decade of being nomadic, this new factor of a child means serious #adulting…but what the f**k does this really mean?

Layroots | ShazDirector

Making this video and shooting still pictures for Seattle based boutique law firm LayRoots was a blessing in disguise as not only have I had to start the process of sorting out guardianship papers i.e what happens to the little man if me and the missus kick the bucket, who takes him, how will he be looked after, but i’m now thinking about the monies we have, the royalties on the books and films I earn, our estate – what happens to it all?!

So now I think about my own death on a fairly regular basis, which i’m told is actually healthy. Forecasting your own death means control. If you can start thinking about dying a bit more, you can also start thinking about sorting sh*t out so your kid does’t have to. You get to minimise being shafted by the man and maybe, just maybe you might even make a bit of coin by being smart.

As an ‘emerging artist’ aka a struggling filmmaker and part time author, i’ve had a good decade with the wifey bouncing around the tropics and avoiding real adulting. But my eyes are a bit more open to the fact that I am my own business and I need to get my affairs in order whilst i’m still breathing so I can preserve my work, legacy, art and artistic vision and not let my kid, family, randoms, or a court deal with it.

If you’re worried about your work or your assets or you’re clueless like I was about how you gonna deal with things, just send a message to Colin or Shreya over at LayRoots. They can help with the small details or the larger issues. Otherwise you can check out my commercial portfolio here and my photographic prints here.

 

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Paper Stock | Giclée & C Type photographic printing

By Suridh Hassan

Paper Stock | Giclée & C Type photographic printing
For most of my prints I tend to use Hahnemühle Bamboo paper, but I do like to mix it up by using the C Type Kodak Metallic stock.

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