In February 2016, five photographers from all walks of life—archaeologists, teachers, photographers professional and amateur—joined together for a life altering adventure in Sumatra, Indonesia.
Photographers Without Borders joined forces with the Orangutan Information Centre, an organization founded by Panut Hadisiswoyo that works to conserve the habitat of the Sumatran wildlife from the destruction of palm oil plantations. With photographer Kristi Odom and PWB CEO and founder Danielle Da Silva, I accompanied some versatile and talented artists while diving deeper into the humanity that weaves us all together as a single, collective being.
Christy Frank, an avid hiker and wedding photographer, grew thankful for practicing the art of storytelling. “This workshop gave me the opportunity to capture that hope through photographic storytelling of those taking a stand. From the beauty of a mother orangutan living freely in the jungle, to the deep souls seen in the eyes of captive tigers in the Medan zoo, and the dedication of locals fighting to protect the voiceless, it was an inspirational immersion and amazing learning opportunity.”
Pao Paladini is a passionate animal lover, and stopped at any opportune moment to greet the local strays that followed us through the various villages we explored. On the second day of capturing orangutan in the Sumatran jungle, our group trekked to the highest point thus to observe Mina, a female orangutan who had previously interacted with Danielle Da Silva the first year she explored Sumatra.
“When I saw Mina and her baby…the way she covered from the rain with the palm melted my heart. I felt so connected to her.” “In addition to the instruction, it was amazing to work alongside a great team of students, who in our case were all professional photographers,” archaeologist Matt Stirn relays. “We had a few wedding photographers, portrait photographers, adventure photographers, and even a pet photographer. It was really neat and valuable to work with and learn from so many people with different backgrounds and perspectives. Everyone came to the workshop for a different reason, and everyone brought a different perspective and set of skills with them which offered an incredible resource for all of us to use and learn from.”
Mike Talladen is a wedding photographer, as well as a natural explorer and conservationist. He relected on the large human component of the work that needs to be done to save the Sumatran Wildlife.
“I think ultimately once you get past the immediate awe of Sumatra, good or bad, it comes down to the people. As much as I love and respect animals, I know that it is up to us as human beings to make sure the future—ours, theirs, and the land we share—is a healthy one. One that we can all coexist in.”
A final summary of all of our blended experiences on that peninsula in Indonesia can be summarized by Dani Angell, a teacher and infinite source of optimism during those compelling two weeks. “I am forever grateful to have been part of such an amazing experience and to have walked this path with brilliant souls that have a permanent place in my heart. Every aspect, every person, every moment has been a sacred gift. I am forever grateful…it is as simple and as complicated as that.”
PWB is excited to be a taking a new group of students to Mongolia this August. At this PWB school, we will be inspiring our storytellers to make real change in an ethical way, while exploring Mongolia's Nomadic communities. Sign up before February 1st for early-bird pricing.
This article was first published in PWB Magazine #9, on sale now.