Andri Tambunan

Who printed it?
The Newspaper Club printed it. I ordered their free sample pack and decided to go with the digital tabloid size.

Who designed it?
Initially, I worked on designing the layout myself using the Book Module Lightroom. I often use this tool to create custom PDFs for moodboards and pitches. The process was familiar, starting with image selections, pairing and grouping photographs, trying out different layouts, adding and positioning text. I shared the rough draft with a couple of friends for feedback and made necessary refinements. Once the sequencing and the rhythm of the layout felt solid, my talented designer friend Cat Oshiro (catoshiro.com) added finishing touches, and she ensured that the file followed the artwork guidelines for printing.

Tell me about the images.
After spending a decade based in Indonesia and covering the South East Asia region, I moved back to my hometown Sacramento, CA in December 2019. A month before moving back, I spoke to my friend who was based in Shenzhen, China. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, he was evacuating his family before the government closes the borders. I was keeping up with the spread of the virus. However, I didn’t expect it was going to arrive at our front door so quickly. I was still adjusting to living back in the States when the Shelter in Place order took place in March of 2020. Prior, I was on track re-establishing my career meeting with editors in LA and San Francisco, connecting with colleagues and collaborators, and networking with potential clients, and looking for a new home base in California. When the pandemic hit, all my plans and progress got put on pause, and upcoming projects and assignments got cancelled or postponed indefinitely. Almost all the available assignments were related to covering the COVID-19 pandemic. In my field of work, I’ve covered armed conflicts, violent protests, and humanitarian disasters. However, because I was staying with my mom and other family members I didn’t accept or pursue any assignment that carried a high risk of infecting my household. I had saved enough money to cover my expenses for the rest of the year and I opted to hold off from working until the pandemic was under control. However, it was necessary to record the impact of this pandemic on individuals, families, and communities around me and I found personal projects to pursue that were safe for me and the people I photographed.

The first one that I photographed was the deserted playgrounds in the Sacramento suburbs. I was walking my Mom’s dogs to a park nearby when I saw the yellow tape reminding me of a crime scene. While still adhering to the shelter in place protocol, I ended up visiting over 60 playgrounds near my home. I photographed them at times that families and children in the community would normally come to gather and play.

The pandemic had forced us to alter many aspects of how we live, work, learn, and interact with one another. My family had to cope with new sets of challenges and adapt to the norms. My biggest scare during the lockdown was when I had to take my mom to the Emergency Room. She was sleeping and woke up around 1:30 am because her blood pressure shot up to 200. My mom is healthy and she has no history of high blood pressure. The first thought that came to my mind was that it could be related to COVID-19. When I reached the ER, I wasn’t even allowed to enter inside. The nurse took her in and I waited several hours while the doctor ran multiple tests. Luckily, it wasn’t COVID. The doctor said that her test results were normal and that the high blood pressure might have been caused by stress and exhaustion. My mom is still very active and independent and she told me that she was experiencing stress from being confined inside. This experience inspired my next series “6 Feet Apart” where I photographed and interviewed individuals and families a month into the Shelter in Place mandate.

I had a personal connection to each photo series in this project. For the last 10 years, I was mainly taking photos in places that weren’t my own. At the same time, after being away for so long, my hometown felt unfamiliar because I was still a stranger and an outsider. This project had helped me in ways that I never expected. It has given me a new sense of belonging.

How many did you make?
I made 70 copies total. I sent out 50 copies to selected editors and publications in a clear vellum envelope and a handwritten note. I gave out the rest to some of the people I photographed.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
Since I relocated from Bali, Indonesia to Sacramento, CA, it was a great opportunity to create and share a new body of work. I try to send a promo out at least once a year. Nowadays we have to actively promote our work since it’s such a competitive field. I started allocating a budget and time for self-promotion a few years ago.

Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?
I believe making printed promos give you an incentive to share and promote your work with current and new potential clients. I can imagine that editors are bombarded with emails daily so this approach separates you from the rest since it is more personal and thoughtful. In this digital age, it’s not often that I get to see my photos in physical form. I enjoy the process of making printed promos, especially for my personal projects because it gives me ample time and creative freedom to digest and reflect on the overall experience before moving on to the next one giving me the stamp of closure.

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