Indonesia / Photo Essay

The People of Flores and Sulawesi

My most valuable souvenirs from our trip to Indonesia are the photos I took of the people. I can always go on Google images and see photos of the volcanoes, temples and beaches we visited, but those moments with people are unique.

Putting together this photo essay made me happy. Looking back through my photos of people on the islands of Flores and Sulawesi served as a great reminder of many special moments I shared with the friendly people of Indonesia. Below is a collection (mostly) of unpublished photos of the people I met on the islands of Flores and Sulawesi.

Flores People Photos

Along the Trans-Flores Highway

People riding on trucks was something we saw all over Indonesia. We once hitched a ride ourselves and when locals would look up and see us, they’d do a double-take and excitedly shout, “BULE!” It isn’t everyday they see a foreigner riding on a truck.

Note: Bule is the slang term for a foreigner.

Boy in Komodo

Seen in Komodo National Park.

Friendly people on FloresShirtless Guy shouted at me then posed for this photo. I am pretty sure it totally made his day to get his picture taken.

badminton champion indonesia

Future badminton champion and heartbreaker.

Kids in Flores

Seen in Moni, Flores.

Friendly Indonesian kids

Kids taking a break from their badminton game to pose for photos with Kristi.

Umbrella on head IndonesiaThis seemed like a funny way to carry an umbrella.

Riung, Indonesia peopleBoy and mother in Riung.

Belaragi old ladiesTwo antique ladies in Belaragi, a traditional town in southern Flores.

Shy girl in RincaThis girl asked me to take her photo, then shyly ran over to her Grandmother. I got a nice bonus shot of the two of them. In classic Indonesian style, the grandmother was all smiles the instant before I snapped the shutter.

local school boy in RincaSchool boy in Rinca posing with his pen.

Kids in Rinca

Kids in Rinca waving goodbye to our boat.

Sulawesi People Photos

Boy with a fish in Bira Bira beach boy with fish

When I saw this boy walking down the beach, I grabbed my camera and went to get a photo. He was delighted to pose of me, but didn’t quite understand the concept that I’d want his face in the photo. After I took the top photo, I gestured for him to move the fish.

Mulsim girls in Pantai BiraAdorable Muslim school girls. Although Indonesia is predominately a Muslim country, it is much more moderate than places I’d visited in the Middle East. After school, these school girls would change into shorts or dresses.

Girl on Bira Beach with Bike

School girl on Bira Beach.

Little boy on Bira Beach

Little boy who really wanted his photo taken.

entire Family on motorbike

The family car.

Motorbike vendor

All over Indonesia you see motorcycles with little kitchens on the back who serve up food along the road.

Heading home from the market

Heading home from the market. Indonesia painted truck

The above photo sums up Indonesian transportation. In the window you have an assortment of stuffed animals, obscuring the view of the driver. On top you have a boy riding safety in a metal basket thingy. And of course, you have the requisite paint and decals on the front.

Indonesian school kidsA group of school kids in Rantapeo.

Little boy at a funeralLittle boy at a funeral in Tana Toraja.

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47 thoughts on “The People of Flores and Sulawesi

  1. Wonderful photos. Brings back memories of the great times I spent in Indonesia and Sulawesi some 25 years ago.

  2. Being a Javanese myself I can’t help to not smile when I saw what’s written on that portable ‘kitchen’. Tombo Luwe in some parts of Java (particularly the east) means ‘cure to hunger’. 🙂 I guess that guy comes from the island. Jeff, I see those smiles every day and I take them for granted. But this kind of post reminds me how precious they are.

    • Tombo Luwe – cure to hunger – that is funny. I knew “kitchen” wasn’t quite the right word, but didn’t know what else to call it. That is a really cool concept – a bike food truck. I need to open one in the U.S.

  3. You got some great shots that really convey the spirit of the people. Reminds me a bit of kind in an Amazon village we visited, and kids of all ages in India. *Love* having their photo taken.

  4. Interesting about the motorcycles – necessity truly is the mother of invention. I love how everyone seemed so eager to have their photos taken – such brilliant smiles!

    • Sue, it does make getting photos of locals easy, but it is also hard to get candid shots of street life. I don’t exactly blend in there and everyone is so friendly it changes the dynamic. But I appreciate it overall – walking around with a camera leads to some great interactions and memories.

  5. What a collection Jeff! Do you think the two ‘antique’ ladies are twins or sisters? I do wonder about that umbrella carrying technique. I would jab my own eye out within 20 seconds. 🙂

    • The two “antique ladies” are almost certainly related. We had to hike to their village which was a 1.5 hour walk one-way uphill the entire way. There are 80 residents in the village and they are all officially Christian. It was Sunday morning and 77 people had walked the 1.5 hours to church, and there were only 3 residents left behind. Sinners. We toured an almost totally deserted village like a museum almost.

      As I type this comment, I realize I need to put together a post about this experience.

      Yes, I too, would jab my eye out. It is funny how so many cultures carry things on their heads, whereas in the U.S. or Canada we’d struggle with tons of stuff under our arms or strain our back on hauling something.

      • Since I didn’t post while I was Indonesia, I am still trying to catch up nearly 5 months later. It is fun to look back at the adventure and live it again and share it will y’all. But at the same time, I am sorta ready to move on! I’ll have to add this one to the queue though for sure. It was a unique experience.

  6. This post has made me realize something: for most of the years I traveled, I took photos mostly of “things” or places. Usually not people, either because I felt shy or they didn’t want me to. Or, I wasn’t that in to people then??
    Now…I realize people are what is so wonderful about foreign places. They say people are people, and the same, everywhere, and that is true I think, but there also is that piece of “difference” that makes them so unique and interesting. If I had hiked to Belaragi, I would have photographed the house of those two women. And then I would have bought that dark sarong off the lady on the left!

    • Yes, you would have bought that sarong. The other lady, the third lady in the village, when I asked for her photo, she plopped down on her porch and gave me the most beautiful smile.

      People photography for me is all about a certain mood. I have to go out alone, leaving my wife at home. (She doesn’t mind – she gets a break from me.)

      Then, for best results, I need to wait in one spot. I watch people come and go and take photos that seem interesting. Some people stop and talk, some want their photo taken, others want a photo of me. My best results come in residential areas or busy market areas.

      I’d say that people photography has become one of my favorite aspects of travel.

      Are there areas where you live now in Abu Dhabi where you can give it a try?

      • Oh, most certainly. And it would be a feast of nationalities, a bizarre bazaar of humans. We have over 200 nationalities working here (they say…at least very many nationalities). Maybe I’ll take a hike downtown today, stand on a corner near a shawarma stand, and snap photos of people. Then make it my next post.

      • Great idea. When I went to Dubai, I met people from India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Indonesia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Russia and Japan. I don’t think I met a single Emirate person. I also learned that if you ate at the restaurants that the local workers ate at vs. the touristy places, you’d save a ton of money and meet really interesting people, like at your Shwarma stand.

        So here is a challenge slash project idea: go to your schwarma stand, take portraits of the people and ask them one or two basic questions about where they are from, what they miss the most about their home country and why they are in Abu Dhabi. That could be a fascinating post. Thank me later when you are world famous.

      • A challenge: You devil. I almost grabbed my and bolted out the door toward the shawarma stand. But, too busy. But…I love the idea. I will put that on my To Do list. I’m just going to thank you now, because you know, when I get world famous I may forget whose idea it was and who made that happen. Fame does weird things to some people. I may be one of those.

      • Totally understand the fame thing and I won’t be offended when you drop off and become famous. I think I’d had a little too much wine when I issued that challenge, but I stand by it. That would be a great photo essay.

  7. Jeff, what a beautiful post! Along with Alison and Don’s blog, yours is inspiring me to go out there and practice taking pictures of people. It’s definitely not one of my strengths.

    One of my biggest regrets in Flores (apart from not having an underwater camera) was missing out on a photo of a village chief we met in Ruteng. He invited us for a chat and some sweet, locally-grown coffee in his drum house and there was a point when the light was perfect as he sat in front of some ancestral items hanging from the central pillar. But I totally chickened out. I told myself I had to be respectful, and I didn’t want to make him feel like a tourist attraction. So what could have been one of the best photos of the entire trip never materialized, and I still have that image of the chief burned into my memory.

  8. Great photos, and you totally have planted a new seed in my mind about travel photography that we can google pics of beaches and temples…but it’s the people that are important to make photos of! I’ve been trying to redirect my brain in this way for a little while now.

  9. I definitely agree with you, the people makes all the difference! Capturing photos of them is a great way of bringing home memories! Going through old pictures and seeing all the people I’ve met while travelling brings back memories and moments I had almost forgotten. I should definitely be better at getting pictures of the locals we met:) A lovely post Jeff!

  10. As always Jeff, great photos. Terri and I were having a conversation just today about how hard it is to take good unposed people photos. (What inspired the conversation was both of us taking photos at a Crawfish Festival and Parade.) We decided that if a photo isn’t posed, it amazing how much people move around, even if they’re standing still. Turning heads, moving arms, blinking eyes, shuffling feet – all of which can screw up a great photo. BTW, my absolute fav is the Muslim Girls shot. Wonderful! ~James

    • Thanks James. Those Muslim girls were so cute! Yes, people photography is a bit like wildlife photography – we never stand very still.

      Did you get any good ones at the Festival? That sounds like a great people watching place.

  11. Pingback: Meet the Bandanese | Plus Ultra

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