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Photographer in Focus // Mahaendra Gofar

Last November I introduced the ‘Photographer in Focus’ series of articles by posting an interview I had with Mr Ronnie Renaldi (link →). He was quite the super cars photographer. Today I’m going to share the interview I had with Mr Mahaendra Gofar. Also an Indonesian hobbyist photographer with a busy day job, Mr Mahaendra treasures his spare times travelling while taking photography side jobs.

Hello Mr Mahaendra Gofar, how are you doing these days, what’s been keeping you busy?
Doing well, thank you. I wish I could say that photography is keeping me busy, but actually my day job is currently taking a lot of my time. Photography for me is an escape from the daily grind, a hobby. It helps me manage my creative side, and keeps me sane, I guess.

I see. So what’s your current day job then?
I’m an engineer by trade, working for a premium European automotive company, so my entire day can be quite dry and technical. Photography helps to vent creatively once in a while.

Career as an engineer in a premium European automotive company, that sounds great! Fulfilling your automotive passions by day and doing photography during spare times must be nice. Also, I notice that you don’t currently live in Indonesia. Where are you living now?
I’ve been living in Singapore for the better part of 5 years now, and prior to that close to a decade in Germany. I haven’t lived in Indonesia for about 15 years, but you can say my heart is still invested there.

Among your interests, I’ve read somewhere that you noted yourself as a world traveler. Which countries have you ever visited and which ones are your favorites?
I was a foreign service brat, growing up in Europe and Australia, so that early exposure to other culture whet my appetite for travel. Several decades later I’ve travelled most of Western Europe and Asia Pacific. Australia had always an impact on me, perhaps because I spent my childhood there, so I always love going back and exploring Australia all over again. I’m an urban traveler, so I like exploring cities, their history, their architecture. London is also a favourite, having lived there for a few years, but also Chicago, Tokyo, Sydney, Paris and Hamburg.

Being so passionate about cars as well as knowing how they work, being an engineer, I bet you’d have quite a peculiar car taste. What’s your personal dream car? And what are the cars you’re currently driving?
My whole career has been within the automotive industry. Working for a car company has its perks, one of which is being able to test drive its cars, and its competitors. The company I work for belongs to a group with a diverse portfolio, from ultra-luxury sportscar to trucks and motorcycles. My personal dream car would be the Lamborghini Aventador, although it’s not something I would drive every day. I’m currently driving an Audi A7 Sportback, which is practical and sporty at the same time. I do miss driving on the Autobahn, though.

I bet you’ve had a lot of chances capturing cars, what car have you found to be the most challenging to capture?
I guess the most challenging was when I shot the Lamborghini Aventador in Italy for a magazine last year. The press department gave me a black (Nero Aldebaran) Aventador to shoot at midday in the summer. Fortunately the location made up for my disappointment and the shots turned out really well, although I did have to spend a bit of time in post.

How much time are you spending behind the camera these days?
Not much lately. Weekends and downtime during business trips mainly. I always have my camera when I’m on overseas trips, and one of my passion is automotive history, so when I get the chance, I try to find an automotive museum and I would spend hours exploring, taking pictures of the exhibits and trying to understand the history behind every car.

When you’re out there taking pictures, what are you looking for when capturing? Do you like using supplemental lighting?
I look for a good location first and foremost. A studio is not a car’s natural habitat. It needs a good background to complement its beauty. I rarely use supplemental lighting outdoors, but then I would try to shoot early morning or late afternoon, when the light is just right. Different with motorbikes, though. I prefer to shoot them in a studio, where I can control the light and mood.

How would you sum up your photography style?
My style is more classic beauty style, even tending towards pin-up style, with good location or background. I tend to take time to compose a scene.

People these days seem to argue that too much post editing has taken away the essence of photography. Meanwhile, others are arguing that the whole combination of taking the picture and editing is, in essence, the modern form of photography. What’s your take on this matter?
I’m still straddling that fine line in between. Although I don’t “take” photographs anymore – I “make” photograph, as the process doesn’t end when a press the shutter button – I prefer subtle edits. I don’t use Photoshop at all (I’m useless at it). My editing is done on Lightroom, which is mainly non-destructive adjustments. Granted, you can achieve a lot with dodging and burning, or even toning a photo, but isn’t that what the old masters were doing in their darkroom?

In your opinion, what would be the top 3 elements new photographers breaking into automotive photography should prioritise?
Lens (nothing too wide, it’ll distort the car’s form), Location (to complement the car not overwhelm it) and Light (natural or artificial), in no particular oder. Incidentally, this also works for fashion and glamour photography (substitute “car” with “model”).

Quite the passionate photographer isn’t he? Living the balance of automotive and photography passions that some of us can only dream of. I’d like to express my thanks to him for having the interview. You can browse more of Mr Mahaendra’s works by visiting his Facebook Page → or Website → or 500px Profile →

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