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Bali: Island of the Spirits, captured by John Stanmeyer

The Holga is considered a simple camera. "Low technology." Photojournalist John Stanmeyer has been defending his choice of equipment for use in Bali.

We Border Hoppers are not surprised it worked out for him. Considering his purpose.

A penchant for the spiritual.

And a respect for deeply rooted traditions and beliefs.

Curiosity. Questions.

Satisfaction with open-ended answers.

Well, why don't you read it in his own words. Below, Stanmeyer's artist statement:
We lived in the middle of a ricefield in Canggu on the island of Bali, raising our children amongst the rich and layered culture of the Balinese. We were welcomed deep into the community of the banjar, rarely ever treated as an outsider. All around us one could feel the essences of the spirits which communed and were worshiped by the Balinese. Whether through the daily offerings of bantens to the spirits residing in the ricefield, the placing of incense in the garden to unseen entities, the elaborate ceremony we needed to perform in order to ask the spirits of the land whether we could build our home, everywhere the mystical and spiritual life — seen and unseen — existed, enveloping all of us on an almost-daily basis.

Having spent many years photographing throughout Indonesia during the tumultuous changes that took place between 1997 and 2000, as a Bali resident between 2003-2008, I wanted to offer a gift to the people there and to all of Indonesia, to document in my own way the daily lives of a deeply spiritual island.

I choose to use one of the simplest camera available, a Holga, which retails in most places for about US$25. Do not underestimate the power of this plastic camera. I decided upon this camera (five different ones) because it allowed me to see Bali as I was feeling it — with one foot in the present while keeping another foot firmly rooted in the past. I didn't want to produce yet another lovely color book on the Island of the Gods. I wanted this documentation to be different, a testimonial to one of the most unique cultures on earth, but also one which is growing deeply under stress by development and outside influences.

How much longer will the Balinese be able to sustain their distinctive culture, found nowhere else on earth? Will the traditions be carried on for generations to come? Who, in 100 years from now, will be able to read the ancient sanskrit texts? Will the Balinese language be one of the vanishing tongues, following in the tragic demise of other languages on our planet where every two weeks we lose a last speaker?

This book, a chronicle of my five years living among the spirits, is a gift to the Balinese, pleading to them to sustain their traditions against the surge of change.

Your spiritual life is so magnificently rooting in centuries-old traditions. May it forever be rooted in the past, with a head turned to the future.

The works are now on display in NYC:

VII Gallery
28 Jay Street
Brooklyn, New York 11201
United States

You can view more photos and read a Q&A with the photographer on nytimes.com >>

For more information, check out the Facebook page for Island of the Spirits (book) >>

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