Willy Kurniawan

Willy Kurniawan

Jakarta, Indonesia
Padang, Indonesia
“I respect the subjects I photograph. Most of them teach me how to walk in their shoes.”


General news, breaking news, sports, environment

One Shot

. Jakarta, Indonesia. Reuters/Willy Kurniawan
“It was the afternoon near a bus station in Jakarta. Something about the way the sun was receding over the darkening blue backdrop made me want to take a photo. The construction workers walked by at the top of the site and I impulsively took the photo. It wasn’t even meant to tell a big story but it taught me to follow my instinct. And I was rewarded – the man was walking right in front of the setting sun which makes this photo so memorable for me.”


My earliest memory of photography is when I found my family’s pocket camera and tried to take pictures with it. I broke the lens and we couldn’t use the camera anymore. I was so fearful that I cried.

My older brother taught me how to photograph using his DSLR camera. At the time I was a junior in high school. My brother let me use it and taught me how to use the camera’s manual setting, shutter speed, aperture and ISO. My first challenge was to take a picture with a normal exposure. I fell in love with the sound of its shutter.

I continued learning. I joined photography communities, clubs, forums and workshops. I developed my skills at Galeri Foto Jurnalistik Antara in Jakarta. I just walked around with my camera and looked for great photos. Discussions with friends and colleagues are the best way to learn.

I wanted to become a photographer so I could tell people’s stories. I’ve always dreamed of witnessing history around the world and telling it to people through my photographs.

My first international assignment was covering the anti-extradition bill protests in Hong Kong. It was my first time being so far away from home and I was nervous. I met colleagues and award-winning photographers from different countries. I learned from them on the ground and in a bar. It was a precious time.

The assignment that left the biggest mark on me was covering the forest fires on Borneo island in 2019. I needed to wait for hours to fly with a patrol helicopter because it couldn’t take off. From there I saw a lot of burnt land. Smoke was billowing from the forests in the middle of nowhere. The land turned red and it looked like hell. I was sad and angry, realizing that our earth is burning.

I am passionate about social issues and environmental stories. I’m interested in people’s way of living especially when they have to adapt to an ever-changing environment. I’m most excited when the assignments trigger my emotions and adrenaline and require me to act fast and make a correct, snap decision such as natural disasters and protests.

The future for photojournalism is in the growth of our media which will also encourage the growth in the stories we’re trying to tell. Everything will become faster.

My advice to a photojournalist starting out now is that everything takes time, stay calm and be generous. Ego can destroy a photographer.

Behind the Scenes

. Sumedang, Indonesia. Yudha Baskoro
Reuters photographer Willy Kurniawan walks along a dirt road while covering the dry season at Jatigede Reservoir in Sumedang, West Java province, Indonesia.
. Jakarta, Indonesia. Mast Irham
Kurniawan walks past riot police while covering a protest which ended up with clashes between university students and riot-police officers outside the Indonesian parliament building in Jakarta, Indonesia.