An Infrared Insight Into The Mind Of Julian Tatang

31 May 2015
Read Time: 2.2 mins

Julian Tatang has done a lot of things in his time. He's played in popular bands and published zines. He's designed posters and is in the process of raising his young family. And more recently, his travel photos have adorned the walls of art galleries.

Born in South Sumatra, the much-travelled Tatang has been a mainstay of Sydney's live music scene for years. Yet it's his work in infrared photography – an unusual technique which produces piercing, dreamlike imagery – that recently resulted in his photos being exhibited by the Art Shine gallery in Sydney as part of the Head On photo festival.

"Our eyes cannot see infrared light," Tatang explains. "An infrared (camera) filter cuts off visible light and passes infrared light, allowing us to create infrared effects that are different from what we see with our naked eyes."

 An infrared image of Sanur Beach in Bali. (Image: Julian Tatang)

Manipulating the process with a modified camera, such as the one Tatang uses, results in luridly detailed images that look like they come from another world.

"Trees, leaves, human skin and all objects can reflect infrared light in unique and interesting ways," Tatang says of his subjects. "I usually pick an object that is surrounded by trees or the tree itself as the main object."

Tatang's vivid Head On portfolio included a striking shot of Tendai Buddhist temple Nison-in in Japan's former imperial capital Kyoto, and the worldly photographer is well-versed in the rigours of travel.

He has a particular affinity with Asia and has spent much of his time away from Sydney photographing the locales and landscapes of the world's most populous continent.

 The floating torii of Itsukushima Shrine in western Japan. (Image: Julian Tatang)

"Japan and Bali are very photogenic and I love the food there," he says. "Both places have very strong traditions and the people are very friendly. I have been to Japan and Bali a few times and never get enough of them."

Pressed on what he most likes to photograph, the affable artist is uncharacteristically coy on the matter.

"I don’t have any particular favourite places or objects to photograph," Tatang says. "It's always nice to learn and explore new things in photography. While travelling, I'll take photos of anything and everything," he adds.

 Waves crash over Pura Tanah Lot in Bali. (Image: Julian Tatang)

Yet Tatang has some advice for the hordes of would-be photographers who traipse around the world armed-to-the-teeth with all the latest gadgets and gear.

"Try to travel light, do not carry heavy lenses or big cameras," he says. "Taking nice photos is one thing but you must enjoy yourself while travelling too.

"Once, I carried a Nikon D3, three huge lenses and a solid tripod plus other camera junk while travelling around Japan. I would never do that again!"

 The bright lights of Osaka. (Image: Julian Tatang)

Like all photographers of a certain vintage, Tatang learned the tricks of the camera trade long before digital photography was around.

Still, he says a couple of tried-and-true methods ensure you'll always take photographs that people want to see.

"To take a good photograph, I would say you have to your use imagination on how to compose your photo, try to make your photo tell a story and hopefully make the viewers feel something from it," Tatang explains.

"There are other thing such as light metering and white balance that are important too, but sometimes rules are meant to be broken," he adds.

 The sun rises over Sanur Beach. (Image: Julian Tatang)

It's a formula that has served the photographer well on his various trips abroad.

And if the quality of his imagery is anything to go by, you'll soon be hearing a lot more about Julian Tatang's travel photography.

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Mike Tuckerman

From Europe to Asia and many places in between, there's rarely a town or city I've not enjoyed exploring. When I'm not wandering the streets and discovering new destinations, you can usually find me hanging out with the locals at major sporting events.