Part of the series 'No Man's Farm'
Once a TV journalist, Atikah Zata has since found solace through photography. Her first photo series took place when she gave birth and became a mother. Over the past few years, she has been actively documenting motherhood, life around her daughter and other documentary projects revolving around the unseen Indonesian communities.
Hey Atikah, can you share with us a little about yourself.
I am Atikah Zata Amani, a mother of two and a documentary photographer based in Jakarta, Indonesia. I spent my childhood in Jakarta and am now living with my little family in Bogor, a small city near Jakarta. I am a former television journalist, now dividing my time photographing, writing, and mothering my kids. Some of my works have been published in the local media such as DestinAsian Indonesia, Narasi TV. And global media; WhyNow, Where the Leaves Fall, One World Magazine.
How did you get into photography and how long have you been at it?
I started my photography journey in 2008 in my last year of college. After I finished my study and work as a TV journalist, I took a break. And started photography again in 2015 in my first year as a mother. I started documenting my daughter which became my first photo stories.
I have been professionally photography since 2019. In October 2019 I took part in a collective exhibition titled “Kisah-Kisah Tanah Manusia” in collaboration with Arkademy and World Resources Institute Indonesia at Galeri Salihara, Jakarta, Indonesia.
You used to be a TV journalist. What was that transition into photography like?
I used to be a very introverted person, but my previous job required me to be more flexible. The experience of being a journalist has opened a lot of new spaces for me that I never realised before. At the same time, I enjoyed the creative process so much. I like to find out and see new things that I have never encountered in my daily life. Both journalism and photography provided me with the space and opportunity for me to do all of this.
As a TV journalist, what were some of the skills you acquired which you felt have equipped you to becoming a better documentary photographer?
Work ethics like determining the theme, researching and its creative process. Not quick to judge something. Being able to adapt quickly to new environments and community. And editing. Editing is everything. Being a documentary photographer/journalist also gives me a chance to champion for what I stand for.
An ongoing project, "When it rains" portrays bike riders caught mid action riding through the wet roads of a highland area in Jakarta.
"I took pictures of these people by taking shelter in front of a local food stall. When the people come, I take a step forward and then snap snap. Then back to the shelter to wait for another moment."
As an Indonesian photographer, what were some of the social issues or challenges people living in small communities face?
I can say inequality or injustice. One of my ongoing project titled 'No Man’s Farm' shares stories from the traditional farming communities in Indonesia. I photographed how the farmers struggled with various obstacles such as the agricultural system and how the climate crisis is impacting their work.
‘There is a Villa Somewhere’ is about a group of villa brokers who would line the roads of the Peak Trail, a highland area in West Java. They are often characterised by men in thick jackets, beanie, and twinkling flashlights. Relying on the heavy traffic in the Puncak Area, villa brokers easily find their guests.
Why documentary photography?
Through documentary photography, I see and hear stories about my country from my point of view as an Indonesian. What has happened a lot so far is that I have seen Indonesia, researched on Indonesia, and have seen the story of the photo from outsiders. It’s not a bad thing, but I feel as an Indonesian I need to know more about Indonesia and its people. Documentary photography has allowed me to be both an observer and a listener. It has also given me the space to explore what I loved.
This photo is part of Atikah Zata's ongoing project titled, 'Times Like These'
I gave birth to this story as I spent days of isolation with my family due to the Covid-19 situation. Since the outbreak was confirmed in Indonesia in March 2020, my family, my husband and my daughter and I have decided to stay at home. We used to have a lot going on in our lives but now they are achingly slow-paced and unexpectedly intense.
I was worried for my daughter.
The active child who loves to be around other people. However, once we’ve managed to establish the new rhythm, everything turned out fine. She has been the happiest one amongst us at home.
I managed my life as simply as I can.
All I can do is take each day as it comes and try to stay healthy and positive and hopeful as I can. It's not my proudest parenting period but I try hard not to put too much thinking into it. One thing I learn at times like these, not over thinking is actually a good mothering strategy.
What are you influenced by?
Books, movies, and surprisingly my daughter. She influences me with her innocent attitude. Kids are amazing by the way.
What are you up to these days?
It just so happens that life is currently slowing down for me. I just lost my second child last January. So now, I'm just about to continue my ongoing projects.