The Hendriks {Jakarta Sessions}

As an Asia Based family photographer, it is a true delight to have the privilege to travel around making images and telling stories, connecting hearts and weaving memories in all sorts of places. There are times when I think about the people that I get to meet and I’m nearly bent double with gratitude; all of these people who come into my life and teach me something about living: it’s a gift.

These days, as a Kuala Lumpur family photographer, I’m mostly shooting around KL, but a good handful of weeks ago, I was off to Jakarta, capturing wonderful, open hearted people there.

These guys I knew from ages ago. Our children used to run together (before they could all even walk!), chasing bugs, exploring, creating silly games. Mundane, quotidian but after school, when the sun bent low, and the cool air enfolded us, it felt like magic.

So, you can imagine my delight to get to come back, see this city where my family grew from three to four, and delight again, in watching these two gorgeous little ones play and tumble and discover. Bigger bodies, but same sweet hearts.

Wanna make some magic with me in KL? I’d love to photograph you family, and learn from you a little more about what it means to be a human.

a happy family in Jakarta, Indonesia by Kuala Lumpur Based family photographer Erica knecht
An n exuberant girl poses with her stuffed animals in Jakarta
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A cozy family together by Kuala Lumpur based photographer, Erica Knecht
Black and white portraits of a brother and sister by Kuala Lumper Photographer Erica Knecht
a funny portrait of a brother and sister by Kuala Lumpur based family photographer erica knecht
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a family cuddle on bed in Jakarta, Indonesia. Photographed by Kuala Lumpur family photographer Erica Knecht
a boy jumps on the bed captured by Kuala Lumpur family photographer That Wild Road
a black and white portrait of a little girl as shot by kuala lumpur family photographer erica knecht
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a family cuddle and play together in Jakarta, Indonesia as captured by Kuala Lumpur Family Photographer That Wild Road
A portrait of mother and daughter as shot by Kuala Lumpur based photographer Erica Knecht
A father and young sun wrestle together as captured by Kuala Lumpur family photographer Erica Knecht
A cuddles together as captured by Kuala Lumpur Family Photographer Erica Knecht
a brother and sister cuddle by asia family photographer erica knecht
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A silly portrait of father and son by Asia woman photographer Erica Knecht
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A moody portrait of a young girl by asia based female photographer Erica Knecht
a happy family hang out on their sofa in a beautifully styled room as captured by Kuala Lumpur based photographer Erica knecht
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It's Warming on Me

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{EDITED TO ADD: I kinda retract this statement. Shanghai and I are, I guess, locked in a pretty tumultuous and dramatic relationship, and she's kinda in the doghouse. So. There are times when I feel like, hey, maybe this place is alright, maybe we can make a happy home here. Notably, these days usually line up pretty nicely with days when I get my groceries delivered to my front door 18 hours after I order them, and I think, how can I ever give this up! Because, in reality, life here is in many ways much easier than life in Jakarta. However, Jakarta has something on me that Shanghai does not.  A softness exists there, a gentle tenderness, you can feel it even in the way the air warms without scorching, and the people smile and mean it, and everything is no problem, la. But it's hardness here, lines and edges, toughness and struggle. And I just really want to stay soft.}

 

I didn’t fall in love with Shanghai the last time we lived here. I was 25 when we moved, green to Asia, hotheaded, and rigid in my North American turn of mind. The spitting grated at me; the scrum of people where I expected a line; the tone of speaking that to my ear sounds agressive; the traffic, the cold, the damp, the rain; the follies of working in a local company did my head in. 

 

I was too shocked by the turn my life had taken. I never expected I’d live in Asia. I felt dwarfed by the skyscrapers and too conspicuous in wide, dusty boulevards, but forgotten in a crowd. 

 

All those years ago, I did’ have the coping mechanisms that I have now. I didn’t have perspective, I didn’t have support, or an awareness that different isn’t bad. I didn’t have the curiosity to move my mind into understanding cultural motivations for strange behaviour. 

 

I didn’t have the skills that are honed and chiseled out of the granite of ten plus years living oceans away from home.

 

I don’t yet love Shanghai in the way that I love Jakarta. I don’t yet feel that tightness close to tears when I watch the shadows moving across our living room walls. I’m not watching, as I was there, my children run around wild and naked in the late afternoon sun, sure that these are the golden years; these are the remembrances cast in amber that I’ll retrieve when I’m old and rocking on my porch. I’m not there yet.

 

But I’m starting to see the charms. The ease of life here is compelling. I can buy diapers from my office chair and they’re delivered to my door 18 hours later. The subway, while crowded, takes me everywhere. I can walk around the city, despite the heat, and be charmed by old buildings, middle aged men with round bellies exposed in the summer heat, a chicken in a doorway. I can stroll through the dappled light under a plane tree (which, doesn’t hold a candle to the dappled light under a frangipani tree, I’ll have you note.) The kids can run and play outdoors in a way they never could in Jakarta. My friend network is slowly expanding beyond, like, one person. I can realise, while already out in the city, that I’m cashless and my bank card is at home, but it doesn’t matter, because I can pay for a taxi with my phone, and the lady at the bodega accepts WeChat wallet. 

 

So, I’m getting there. Indonesia has my heart. But Shanghai, like an arranged marriage, is warming on me. 

News

I’ve been sitting on a bit of a secret. I haven’t wanted to discuss it in public. I haven’t wanted to make it Facebook official. I haven’t wanted to really admit that it’s real. 

But it is real. It is official. It’s happening. 

We’re moving.

We’re leaving Jakarta, my heart home, my love, and going to Shanghai, China. We’ll be touching down sometime in late May. 

This has been lying dormant in my subconscious for some weeks now, but every time I’ve thought about putting it down in words, I instead looked away. And while I’ve been putting on this false front during the day, at night I’ve been lying in bed awake for hours on end, worrying about what’s to come.

But now, I’m sitting in hotel overlooking this great city that soon will be our home, it’s pretty real. We’re moving. 

The move shouldn’t really have come as much of a surprise. Our typical cycle is three years and then pack up and go. We’re three-and-a-half years into our Jakarta sojourn, so it’s time. But, still, we thought we were safe for another year or two. The corporate powers that be wanted us in Jakarta for a while longer. But then, completely out of nowhere, the needs of the company changed, and so we needed to change too. 

So, we’ll pack up, we’ll say good bye, we’ll get on a plane and we’ll rebuild our lives in a brand new city.

And this is no great tragedy. Shanghai is one of the world’s great cities: there’s a rich and diverse population of international residents; a food scene that inspires and surprises; arts and culture and music; sidewalks and subways; parks, playgrounds, pork products; cheep(er) wine; cafes and street level shops; tree lined streets; real neighbourhoods; and amazing schools. It has everything that Jakarta lacks, really.  

On paper, Shanghai is a real step up. 

But, not in my heart. 

Jakarta, for all her failings, all her stinky sewers, broken sidewalks, corrupt officials, and infuriating traffic, Jakarta feels like my one true love. Jakarta is my heart home, the place that feels like me, the place where I feel most like me. 

 

So, Jakarta, I’m so sorry to go. You will, always, be where my heart resides. When we leave I know that I’ll weep. But I also I know that I’ll be back. 

 

 

 

Saturday Morning

I've been playing around with video, and, uhhhh, it's kinda fun? I was working on this little number over the weekend and, you know that feeling when you're deep into something and you look at the clock and wonder how two hours could have possibly flown by? Yeah. That. It's kind of like meditative. Or a like a creativity booster, or whatever. Which isn't to say this video is amazing (spoiler alert: camera shake is a thing!) but I got to tap into that creative energy, that generative force that is kinda, like, the whole point of everything, you know? And well, that's inspiring. 

Anyway, have a look. If you're in Indo, you'll have to use a vpn. Sorry!  Vimeo is blocked here,  apparently it's full of stuff too dangerous for our sensitive eyes. Sure glad the government is spending their valuable resources protecting my decency, especially when graft and corruption are endemic. ;) 

Bee in The City

People will tell you that you can’t go walking in Jakarta. People will say that it’s not safe, the sidewalks are treacherous, the pollution is thick, there are gobbling about.  And so everyone stays in malls, breathing recycled air, wallowing artificial light. They drive their kids to school even though it’s two buildings away. 

 

But not us. We love getting out and exploring the neighbourhood. Yes, the sidewalks are broken, but we can wheel around the holes. Yes the pollution is thick some days, but not always. And the goblins exist only in the minds of the unadventurous. 

One of my favourite parts of the day is walking Stella to school. We pass by the security team and Stella offers a “selamat pagi, bapak.”  We walk by the ojek drivers who crouch next to the river, and they wave at us. Hugo sits in stroller quietly. As we cross the street, he extends his arm, palm out, to stop the traffic. 

There’s always a sight that catches my eye, that stirs something inside of me. Perhaps an ondel-ondel waddling down the sidewalk; a street vendor selling golden crisp tempeh; a stranger who offers a smile so warm it lets you see into her insides. Maybe it’s just the buildings and the clouds reflected in a black and gritty puddle. There is something, always something, that is worth seeing. 

Sometimes when there’s no school on and the kids and I are up for a wander, we head down the back streets, we pass luxury malls and skyscrapers, food sellers and motor-cycle taxis, and we go to our favourite cafe. Stella walks next to me, quiet and nothing. Hugo sits in his Bugaboo Bee3 watching the world go by. 

I love this time with my kids, being out in the world together. I love seeing, really seeing what’s real and true all around us. There’s so much to discover, so much worth noticing. And there is beauty everywhere. 

Some time ago, I partnered with Bugaboo and Little Steps Asia on a cool little project. We're working on the Bee in The City promotion. Have a look! And check it out: City guides for some amazing South East Asian metropolises, including my beloved Jakarta. The intent is to get out there, and notice what is lovely about this city. So, have a look. I’d love it if you would. You can find the City Guide here. And below, some gorgeous images of our cafe adventures by Viveash Photography. (Also, her insta is the best ever.) Enjoy!

Stay in-the-know and on-the-go in four of Asia’s leading cities.  Bugaboo, the iconic Dutch stroller brand, and Little Steps Asia, the leading website in Asia for parents, teamed up with local parent trendsetters to offer insider tips on where to stay, play, shop, and explore. Take an artsy stroll through Hong Kong, taste your way through kid-friendly neighborhoods in Singapore, shop for Indonesian designers for kids in Jakarta, and stay in unique boutiques in Kuala Lumpur. Grab a copy for your baby bag or download it on the road – the city is yours!

For more great tips on what to see and do in South East Asia, check out Little Steps Asia, the Facebook Page, and their Instagram. And of course, Bugaboo's Facebook and Instagram