Leonard Suryajaya creates lush, harrowing, and hilarious images in his photography, and I was fortunate enough to be a part of his process for his recent work with The New York Times.

While I initially wanted to talk to Leonard about his creative process, I couldn’t help but indulge and take a detour into the history of Indonesia.

Leonard’s story of immigrating from a repressive culture in Indonesia to a theater department in California is fascinating, as are his insights about American and Indonesian society.

He also has an enlightening perspective on how people can use fitness to “punish themselves,” and he shares his own learning about being gentler on himself in training.

If you haven’t seen Leonard’s photographs, please spend some time on his website at www.leonardsuryajaya.com.

Listen Here

Learn more from Leonard here:

Selected Photos from Leonard:

Parade at SLSC
Dad and Trophies

Show Notes:

  • [01:22] How God initially disapproved of and then finally approved of Leonard’s name
  • [08:47] The history of conflict in Indonesia—and how it impacted Leonard’s ethnically Chinese family
  • [13:26] Leonard’s drive to leave Indonesia, and what surprised him about moving to America.
  • [25:59] How the repression of the Indonesian government created tension in Leonard’s family
  • [41:09] Getting your family to do absurd things in the name of creating art
  • [49:47] How Leonard incorporates humor and confrontation in his photos
  • [01:00:30] How does one improve at photography? What skills are necessary?
  • [01:04:44] How did Leonard create his photographs for his recent New York Times piece?
  • [01:14:10] What are the challenges of being into both art and fitness
  • [01:20:19] Learning not to always push through and punish yourself in the gym
  • [01:35:54] How to learn more from Leonard and check out his photos

Links and Resources Mentioned