A Selfless Photographer in Bali

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Photography can be a chance to show empathy but many epitomize the lack of empathy through their photos. It has become routine to broadcast banal information and fill social media with moments that constitute ones day– recording mundane events becomes proof of their importance or even existence. But there are those who dare to venture off the beaten path to tell their stories through narrative photography.  In fact these selfless photographers continue to open peoples eyes throughout our planet. One photographer continues to tell his story in the heart of Bali.


Rudi Waisnawa

self·less photographerˈselfləs/ pho·tog·ra·pher | \ fə-ˈtä-grə-fər
one who practices unselfish photography especiallyone who makes a business of taking photographs to help others before themselves.

  1. Photography that captures the needs and wishes of others than with one’s own; unselfish.

“an act of selfless devotion through photography”

Rudi Waisnawa has been a photographer since 2000. His choice of camera is the Canon DMark III 24-70mm lens and 35mm lens.

In 2014 he met Bali’s leading psychiatrist, Luh Ketut Suryani , founder and director of Suryani Institute for Mental Health. Since then he has been documenting her activities along with other volunteers who help with mental disorders throughout communities in Bali. Besides Photography Rudi also helps by cleaning patients rooms, bathing them, feeding them, and most importantly giving them human contact. In addition, Rudy continues to share his experiences in forums throughout communities in Bali. While crossing the line between superstition, religion, culture, and everyday life. He hopes to show others that the mentally disorderly are not possessed by evil spirits by bringing them along with him from village to village.

2019 Ubud Readers and Writers Festival

Rudi Waisnawa was one of the speakers who attended the 2019 Ubud Readers and Writers Festival. He had a story to tell and those that listened sat in disbelief as he shared unimaginable acts of inhumanity.

All Photography by Rudi Waisnawa

Later, a slideshow was projected onto a small screen and in that instance his listeners figured out that Rudi’s first choice of communication was through his camera lens, an extension of his heart. His images came to life as those who watched became emotionally attached to his mission in life. To sum it up , not too many photographers captured images they wanted to forget about. In fact on that October afternoon, Rudi shared images that were etched in hope, hope that his experience would help his friends in need. Those images are still implanted in my head today.

Final Thought

Due to a lack of information, misinformation, and superstition, mental health issues are often misunderstood. As a result families continue to chain up their loved ones for years out of desperation, fear and loss of hope.  They are abandoned, chained to the floor or locked up in cages – hidden from public view and any human contact. With just one mental Hospital on the island and only 30 beds reserved for the poor, families are forced to take action into their own hands. But Rudi Waisnawa, Luh Ketut Suryani, and other volunteers continue to help the mental disorderly. Traveling from  from village to village using a holistic approach. A combination of modern psychiatry, anti-psychotic drugs, Balinese spiritualism, and lots of love for humanity.

The Book

“Passung” by: Rudi Waisnawa

Passung is the Indonesian term for restraints or restrained. It is used to refer to shackles, but can also refer to being locked in a room or confined to a shed or animal cage. It was banned in 1977 but it is still being used anytime there is a mental disturbance in a community or village. In the villages eyes, they are protecting their loved ones and the individual. Without money to properly diagnose or treat the mentally disorderly, Indonesians will continue to use Passung, Shamans and traditional healers as their popular choice of healthcare . Mental illness is a disease that can be treated but most don’t even know they can get better through treatment.

” Pasung” is a book created with love and empathy by Rudy Waisnawa in the hopes of completely eliminating this inhumane practice. Rudi’s dream is that this book can help with the funding for this cause since he doesn’t have enough money to publish it himself. Rudi is offering all rights to anyone who publishes this book. You can use your own logo, name, choose a different layout, sell it or donate it. As long as he can continue to help this cause in anyway , he will be happy. If you would like to publish this book or donate to this cause, please email Rudy directly at: 13rudirock@gmail.com

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