“Let’s go to the hidden place, Leave the world behind, Throw away your label skin, Breathe, Wash your eyes, Wash your thoughts, Enjoy the warmness of it all…”
Birds of Paradise: Preserving the Disappearing Tribes of the East Indies Through Portraiture
Growing up, Fred Stichnoth was always drawn to adventure movies set in tropical locations. “I love ancient themes, from Egypt to Indonesia. I’ve spent a long time travelling around the world, being drawn to what is considered taboo,” he says. So, it was a dream come true when he located from his native Germany to the Indonesian Island of Bali. From here he has been able to explore some of the remotest areas in the East Indies and the tribes that call these places home. A home that is fast disappearing, along with their customs, legends, ceremony and regalia.
Shot on location using natural light, Fred employs classic techniques to create a study of his female subjects without the resulting picture feeling invasive. “Around 1860 photographers began using things like a simple bed sheet to create a neutral background. I followed this old idea so as not to disturb or detract from the main focus of the image,” he explains. What is achieved is a portrait of a woman that is at once delicate yet strong, vulnerable yet mighty. Pops of colour delivered through the use of the foliage featured are a counterpoint to the largely neutral palette. But it is a reverence for the colour of skin that is striking.