Tour Papua, Indonesia With Photog Kelley Siebenaler

Click on the thumbnails to see larger versions of the photos.
(All images courtesy of and (c) Kelley Siebenaler)

Our Featured Artist section roars back with these AMAZING images from Papua, Indonesia by photographer Kelley Siebenaler. She took some time to talk with us about her trip and methodology when shooting in a foreign land.

For more info on Kelley, check out

Osmosis Online: Where and when were these images shot?

Kelley Siebenaler: These images were from a trip my husband and I took to Papua, Indonesia (former Irian Jaya) in the fall of 2006.

OO: Can you tell us a little about the people?

KS: The people in my images are native to the island of Papua, and exist within a self-sustaining culture. There was an extensive amount of traveling involved while visiting the different tribal locations, one of which we landed in a Cessna on a small, grassy runway in the middle of deep, egg-crate like jungle. Each place greeted us with warm smiles, traditional food, and plenty of attempts at using our broken bits of trade language to communicate, we laughed a lot with them! The woman with hand-woven bags made out of bark on her head had just returned from gathering vegetables from her garden, this image depicts her strength, it is apparent in the amount of food that she has gathered and is carrying, in the muscular build in her ripe age, as well as in her role as a provider in the local culture. The men with the bows and arrows are followed by his sons, one of whom seems quite young to be carrying an axe, early responsibility is evident in this image as they returned from hunting together with a bag of successes. The tattoo markings on the young woman and little girl wearing a woven flower hat represent some of celebrations of tradition and pride in Papuan heritage, quite often they dress in traditional clothing while dancing and singing to honor their ancestors and culture. It is common to see men sitting flat footed as the one in my image in front of an interior (deeper in the jungle) hut, he was kind enough to give us a personal tour of the village.

OO: During your time shooting there, did you consciously try to capture a sense of personality, environment, and mood in the images or did you just allow it to happen naturally?

KS: Before venturing to Papua, I had purposed in my mind to take a certain set of images, ones that I knew where distinct to the people and the native culture from previously living there years before, and although that was successful, there were many moments that I was able to capture because I allowed myself to be immersed in the surroundings. Since there wasn’t a demanding time table, I allowed myself to be in rhythm with Papua, to have long talks and walks with people, and to explore the simple moments that their daily life consists of. Seeing through the eyes of a Papuan made my imagery stronger and more emotionally impacting to me because I was building relationships and learning while making friends.

OO: Do you have any words of advice for those interested in shooting travel/documentary photography?

KS: Technically: Bring multiple lenses and use a fill flash with diffusion, get up close, the P400 was useful and extra battery power, pocket model releases, and a waterproof soft supported backpack for gear, a monopod and a tripod are useful, and shove a few power bars in the crevices.

Emotionally: Learn some language and about the culture before you go, be involved with the people, listen to their advice on what they love about their location, and act on it! Be open for everything to change in an instant, and no matter what happens (be it leaches, cockroaches, maggots, or snakes) DON’T lose inspiration! Keep shooting!


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