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Photographer's Note

Here's a portrait of a traditional Mentawai woman, living in the interior of Siberut Island off the west coast of Sumatra. She's the wife of Teu Agoi, a shaman and clan leader, and so is known as "the wife of Teu Agoi". Teu Agoi, in fact, means the father of Agoi. Learn one name in a Menatawai family and you learn them all!

The wife of Teu Agoi has just returned from a ceremony at the village next door. She always dresses traditionally (which means not dressing much at all), but today she's sporting a more elaborate head dress. She's particularly proud of the instant noodle packet she's shredded for the occasion (top left). IndoMie packets come in the traditional Mentawai colors and are far cheaper than yarn. Reduce, reuse, recycle!

Before departing the neighboring village, the wife of Teu Agoi was sure to collect local leaves and tie them to her. If not, her soul may be tempted to lag behind her body, bringing illness. Another strategy to keep the soul stuck to the body is to make oneself beautiful. I think the wife of Teu Agoi is doing just fine with that. Beaming smiles like this are typical fare for her.

To date the Mentawai are the most challenging people I've shot in Indonesia. Their culture demands that everyone share and share alike. And since they have pretty much nothing this means you should give them everything. Please is not a word in the Mentawai vocabulary. And they chain smoke from the age of 10. As a visitor you are expected to abet their habit generously, but I've found that shampoo and deworming medication serve as good alternative currencies. I've also sent back prints. It would be nice if they smoothed future visits but more likely they will lead to jealousy. Can't please everyone...

It's technically quite frustrating to shoot inside a Mentawai house. Most parts are very dark and the parts that are bright are open at the sides. Inevitably people sit near the edges with their backs to the bright bits and faces toward the dark bits. These days, I'm reluctant to use fill flash--it's so 90's!--and often prefer to push my luck wide open with a bumped-up ISO.

In this shot I almost got away with that. But because the wife of Teu Agoi was so darn boisterous I suffered motion blur at 1/80. Once again, I had no luck with the motion blur setting on PS's smart sharpen filter. I never seem to get the axis right. My usual salvage effort involves smart sharpening (Gaussian blur) multiple times at different settings. I play around, but on truly unsharp shots I've found I can take alarmingly drastic measures, such as: 1) radius 15, amt 10% 2) radius 7, amount 15% 3) radius 1, amt 100%. That last round might be applied during a Noise Ninja operation. I still wouldn't feel comfortable taking this image full page, but a 6R print looks just fine. Anyway, women of my age appreciate a 'Doris Day' glow.

This is Day 2 for me here at Trek (Earth + Nature + Lens) and I'm liking it quite a lot!

Djuna
Indonesia Wild

sowhat, gelor, ktanska, Davids, Beaumonde has marked this note useful

Photo Information
  • Copyright: Djuna Ivereigh (IndonesiaWild) Silver Note Writer [C: 2 W: 1 N: 10] (14)
  • Genre: 人物
  • Medium: 彩色
  • Date Taken: 2007-01-27
  • Categories: Ceremony
  • Exposure: f/2.8, 1/80 seconds
  • More Photo Info: view
  • Photo Version: Original Version
  • Date Submitted: 2007-03-25 4:54
  • Favorites: 1 [view]
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Additional Photos by Djuna Ivereigh (IndonesiaWild) Silver Note Writer [C: 2 W: 1 N: 10] (14)
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