by Stephane Sensey
Walok means love in one of the many Dani dialects. It is an appropriate title as through these pages we hope that the photographs and words will help foster a love and appreciation for the incredibly unique Dani people of Irian Jaya’s Grand Balien Valley. What it highlights, ultimately, is that the world is immensely diverse; the way we dress, our customs, our beliefs and so on. The Dani people highlight this more than anyone.
Ultimately, this book showcases the brilliant photographic works of Stephane Sensey. It mainly focuses on portraits of the people, as people are the soul of any society. Stephane has managed to capture the remarkably distinct character of Dani people, from their unique traditional dress to their intriguing rituals.
The test that supports Stephane’s work aims to explain who these people are, what their unique customs entail and why they are such an intriguing society. By no means can this book represent the Dani in their entirety, like any group of people they are complex – words and images cannot properly represent the intricacies of any society.
– Edward Speirs
I was introduced to Stephane Sensey by an old friend I really trust; she said, “this man’s photographs are so powerful, so deep, we need to show them to the world!” That’s a pretty compelling introduction and I wondered if reality would live up to the promise.
As it happens, the reality exceeds the promise by a huge margin. These are photographs so rich in culture, so deeply ingrained into the soul of the people they depict, that words are hardly necessary. The images themselves tell the story of a people, cocooned in forests, set apart from the developed world, and wholly integrated with their beliefs, practices and surroundings.
It is a series of photographs that capture the last remnants of a bygone era, the sort of pictures we ogled at in National Geographic before the jet age banished “distant lands” to the history books. They are truly magnificent as are the Dani people they so beautifully capture.
Indonesia is blessed with diversity so rich it is often ignored and even rejected. These pictures, and this simple text, expertly written by Edward Speirs, bring the Dani to Life; even if all pictures are in black and white. The detail of the pictures and the sparsity of the text are perfectly matched.
Congratulations to both photographer and author for a compelling and absorbing book. This should be read around the world.
My only fear is that people will try to find these un-spoilt places and un-spoilt people and spoil them forever.
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER
With his interior design background, a field in which he still works in today, Stephane Sensey has always understood ‘the visual’. His passion for photography began when working as editorial director on a photography book about his home town: here he was exposed to a new world, the life behind the lens. Since then, his passion has grown and wherever he goes his camera is by his side. he aims to capture the reality that his eyes see, a certain moment, an emotion or an action; there must be soul and there must be a story in his images.
Originally from Biarritz in the French Basque Country, Stephane moved to Indonesia in 2004 to bring new challenges into his life. After visiting the country 3 times on holiday, he knew that this was the perfect place to explore his own creativity. Although he lives in Bali, Stephane has always had strong fascination with Papua and the Dani tribe – when he was growing up in France, the stories and images of these people brought him to a world he never believed still existed. They were exotic, unique and most of all, the gap between himself in Europe and the Dani could not have been larger; the developed Western world against the tribal ‘Stone Age’ lands.
Every year the Dani traditions fade more and more; they drift slowly closer to what is perceived as modernity and development. Thus, Stephane hopes to preserve a piece of their heritage in his photographs and bring people around the world closer to the intriguing lives of the Dani people.