Ayra Matondang: a photographer in focus

Updated: Mar 31, 2020

Photo by Ayra Matondang


The Bigger Picture (London and Jakarta) — Ayra Matondang boasts many talents. As well as contributing as a graphic designer to both Balance the Ballot, a news organisation boasting over 20,000 Instagram followers, and this site, she is also part of Bye Bye Plastic Bags’ Jakarta branch, an NGO advocating an end to the use of plastic bags.

Additionally, however, Ayra is a gifted photographer. Her retro, grainy flash film photography is nostalgic and wistful, harking back to a simpler, more carefree era of disposable film photography. She is also a versatile photographer; Ayra takes phone photographs that are just as aesthetically pleasing, and has proven to be adept at more traditional documentary photography, covering events at her school such as the Esperanza Cup. Ayra recently spoke to The Bigger Picture about her photography; the discussion has been reprinted in full below.

The Bigger Picture: What was the experience doing sports photography at the Esperanza Cup like? What was it like using a DSLR rather than your normal phone or film camera?

Note: The Esperanza Cup was an event held at Tuna Mudas School in Jakarta last September, featuring dance, photography and sports competitions, along with performances by bands and music artists and mural paintings.

Ayra Matondang: I think that it was my first time paying a lot of attention to what I shot. A lot of the pictures I take is taken in passing, meaning I don’t usually fuss over the details. My train of thoughts goes like “Oh, this looks cool!” and I’ll snap the picture. However during this period I was motivated to take shots that tell stories, and show the agility and strength of the athlete. It was overall exhilarating as I had access to roam around the court to capture the intense energy of the players and getting shots that showcased it. Esperanza Cup was also an introduction for me into using DSLRs instead of my usual phone or film camera. Although it was expected, I’ll get really pleased with the quality of the picture after I take a look at my results, as, of course, DSLRs are more advanced and professional. I was armed with almost 0 knowledge before thrusted into the job, so I had to learn how to fully optimised its features on the job. I definitely do not think I am an expert on it, as I lack knowledge on its fundamentals (ISO, fps, etc.), however this event gave me a taste of what it’s like using various, more professional mediums and I am excited to experiment with it even more.

TBP: What film camera and film do you generally use, and how do you get it processed and developed? Why do you choose to use film over digital?

AM: The film camera I used in these pictures is the Konica Z-Up 110 Super which was actually my mom’s when she was younger. I’ve only tried films that are on the cheaper side and more readily available such as Kodak Ultramax 400 and Fujifilm C200. I am interested in doing more b&w film purely for experiment and seeing how it compares with colour negative film.

Ayra’s film camera of choice. Image courtesy of Andrys Stienstra/Flickr.

Moving on to the developing process, I do not have my film processed by myself, as it is done by 35-mm film developing service in the South of Jakarta, I also buy new film there. I wouldn’t say that I prefer film over digital, as digital is more convenient, additionally film can be quite expensive to be your only medium (buying the camera, film rolls with limited shots, processing and etc.) However, film offers a perspective that a digital medium cannot. I think that film is more sensitive as its end result is significantly based on external factors such as its film, exposure, movement, zoom and etc., things that the photographer can’t always control. So in a way you are capturing something that’s result is not 100% you’re doing, which I think is why I like using this medium a lot. Scrolling through my film scans is always a feeling I can’t find anywhere else, as those are moments filled with curiosity and hopefulness as to what it would look like.

TBP: When you do take photographs on your phone, how does the process generally unfold?

AM: As I mentioned before, a lot of my pictures are taken in passing, however when a satisfactory shot does emerge, I get giddy over it and think how it can be improved. When taking a picture in my phone, I try my best to fully use the features available, like lowering down its exposure, using Portrait mode and using Live mode. After that I would most likely import it to VSCO [a mobile editing app] as most of my pics are filtered or colour corrected somehow. After it is imported, I do not use a set recipe and I seldom pay attention to what I actually do in VSCO. It’s all about how it looks, not a certain number or filter. Therefore, I usually mess around with what’s available in VSCO and sometimes make different edits of the same picture to compare which looks more aesthetically pleasing. However, I think it’s important to know that not all pictures need filter, sometimes they can look better if you just enhance basic components such as exposure, saturation and clarity.

To see more of Ayra’s photography, follow her Instagram photography account @mrngshots.