Through the Lens of Libby Owen-Edmunds

Boy from Balliem Valley, Papua
A young boy collecting ferns to eat – Balliem Valley, Papua

Today we are privileged to gaze through the camera lens of Libby Owen-Edmunds. We discovered Libby’s photographic talents through a friend who, aware of our love of photography, recommended we follow Libby’s instagram feed.  For quite some time we traced Libby’s global adventures, admiring from a far as she posted one breath-taking photo after another. However, it was Libby’s photographs of the remote tribes of the Papuan Highlands that jolted us into action! Enough of this passive admiration, it was time to meet the woman behind some of the most moving, candid and beautiful photographic portraits we’ve ever seen.
Say Hello to Libby Owen-Edmunds.

 

 

* Kenalkan Libby Owen-Edmunds

Hunza, Norther Pakistan
Libby at work in Northern Pakistan. The enormous lake pictured here was created after a massive landslide in 2010 blocked the Hunza River. When glaciers began to melt, four villages became submerged and more than 15km of the Karakoram Highway was cut off. The only way across the valley was by boat.

Hello Libby and thanks so much for chatting with us today! We’re so excited to be sharing some of your stunning photographic images with our A Journey Bespoke readers. To start with, can you please tell us a little about your background.
I grew up on a small farm just south-west of Sydney in a town called Camden. I am the youngest of three and all my family live in different parts of NSW, Australia.

pony
Libby with her pony Peggy
Wirrinya
Libby’s family home, ‘Wirrinya’, New South Wales, Australia

How did you come to live in Jakarta?
I made a deal nine years ago to follow my husband Tom’s career for ten years and this eventually brought us to Jakarta.

We have until August 2019 in Jakarta – I gave in and gave him an extra year! If we had Tom’s way, we would move back to Australia after this – but it’s a tough one for me. Tom has never lived there and every time we go for holidays he just finds the lifestyle fabulous. It’s tempting to make our next move a move to a more developed country. I dream of somewhere I can ride a bicycle to work, walk everywhere, exercise in parklands and generally spend more time outside. I feel a bit liked a caged monkey after so long in Asian countries where these things can be a rarity.

Having said all of that, I think I still have many years of living an expat life left in me. I just love Asia – I have lived in South Asia for 14 years and now South East Asia for 3 years.

Drain Cleaner
A Drain Cleaner from The Old City of Lahore, Pakistan

What is your professional background?
Let’s just say I have had several careers – all somehow inter-connected. I started in marketing which led me to running a strategic branding agency in Melbourne. I then moved to Sri Lanka and set up businesses in upmarket tourism (boutique hotels, homewares & handicrafts, travel companies etc). In 2009 I went from running businesses to consulting in the areas of Sustainable Tourism and Private Sector Development. My consulting work takes me all over the world – predominantly Asia and the Pacific.

How did you get into photography?
Osmosis. I married a professional photographer. I have spent many hours standing in strange places waiting literally for hours whilst Tom takes the perfect pic. So I decided to join in.

Thimphu, Bhutan
Tom in Thimphu showing the ladies from Laya, North West Bhutan their photo. Libby and Tom were in Bhutan for the coronation of the King as well as their honeymoon!
Balliem Valley
Tom and Libby in the Balliem Valley, Papua

Where are the best places in Jakarta (and beyond) for Photography?
In general, I’d say in the *kampungs, or areas where the locals reside. This is where you find the heart and soul of community life.

pedal power
A pedal-powered children’s amusement ride – Jakarta, Indonesia
Laputa, Myanmar
Boy in pyjamas in the town of Laputa, Myanmar
A boy holding snake gourds. Laputa, Myanmar

What do you most like to photograph and why?
People – portraits are my thing. I travel so much that I find photography enables me to stop, breathe the moment in, take time to get to know the local people, build a relationship and then capture that moment.

Can you tell us about your photography equipment?
I tend to use two devices to capture my images. The first is a Canon EOS 550D with a 18 – 200mm lens. Secondly I use my iPhone – originally the iPhone 5 then 6 and now the iPhone 7 model. They just keep getting better!

celebrating the Eid in The Old City of Lahore
Young girls in The Old City of Lahore celebrate Eid with an ice lolly, new outfits and make up
Adi Vel Tamil Hindu Festival
The Adi Vel Tamil Hindu Festival in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Men and women enter a trance, piercing their skin with hooks

Are you able to identify your 3 favourite photos?
I can’t narrow it down to three – each one of my photos has a different meaning. But I’ve selected 3 images that I really do like.

Mt Kailash
Mt Kailash in Western Tibet – the holiest mountain for Tibetans and Hindus. I went there to heal after my fiancé died
Ibu Ata, North-West Sumba, Indonesia
After a long day working in the field, Ibu Ata makes her way home. North-West Sumba, Indonesia
Kazakh eagle hunter
A Kazakh eagle hunter at the Eagle Hunting Festival in Olgii, far Western Mongolia. Libby says,’I had a recurring dream from about the age of four. I would be galloping across the endless steppes of Mongolia. So off I went to fulfil my dream’.

Who and what inspires you?
My MIL (mother-in law) Jan: aged 83. She is young hearted, open-minded, full of energy, inquisitive, always learning, travels solo and continually entertains at home with grace and ease. Jan never says “I am old”. She is such an inspiration.

Golden Temple Amritsar
Libby with her Mother-in-Law, Jan at the Golden Temple Amritsar. Whilst Libby and Tom were living in Lahore, Jan paid them a visit. Libby crossed the border to meet Jan and bring her home

Trekking in the mountains: I feel such freedom and energy when I am travelling with my backpack and my tent. I love the feeling of being totally at one with nature. Fresh air, mountain vistas, no people, cars or phones and the magical starry nights. Take me there NOW!

Mashabrum Peak, Pakistan
Libby trekking in the Hushe Valley in Baltistan in far northern Pakistan. View looking back towards Mashabrum Peak (7,821m) – 9th highest peak in Pakistan.

We know you’ve explored far & wide throughout Indonesia. What are some of your favourite Indonesian dishes and where do you find them?
Ikan Patin: It is an oily river fish that is just sensational when cooked on hot coals. I had it at a tiny *warung in Palangka Raya, Central Kalimantan (I just wish I could remember the name of the warung). I can still taste it.

Babi Panggang Karo (barbecued pork with a tapioca leaf sambal and spicy pig blood sauce). It is AMAZING! This dish is a specialty of the north of Samosir Island in Lake Toba, North Sumatra. It must be eaten at Rumah Makan BPK Lau Renun at Garong.

Babi karo
Babi Panggang Karo from Rumah makan BPK Lau Renun at Garong

Beef Rendang with Nasi Gurih (rice cooked in coconut milk with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger) from Warung Pak Rasiyd in Banda Aceh, North Sumatra.

Nasi Gurih and Beef Rendang
Left – Nasi gurih with den deng (dried sweet beef) and Beef Rendang with sweet chilli sambal. From Warung Pak Rasiyd


Tea or coffee? And where to get your preferred beverage
Definitely a latte from Tanamera café at The Peak Residence in Setiabudi. Ask for Eva (the best Barista in town)

Eva of Tanamera Coffee
Whilst visiting Libby, we headed to her favourite coffee stop and indulged in a latte made by Libby’s favourite barista, Eva (Photograph by a Journey Bespoke)
coffee cup
My coffee made by Eva of Tanamera Coffee at The Peak in Setiabudi. Yes indeed it tasted good! Libby BYO’d our cups – so we enjoyed our coffee in the company of royalty! (Photograph by a Journey Bespoke)


Words/phrases to describe ‘Your Jakarta’
Trust what comes
Work (too much)
Kampungs
Coffee (some of the best in the Southern Hemisphere right at our doorstep)

tea house nepal
Libby and Tom sharing a cup of chai at a tea house near Pokhara, Nepal

How do you relax?
Singing – Although I can’t sing to save myself, I am currently having singing lessons. I am desperate to be the lead role in Fame! So if I am going to fulfill this dream I had better start!

Cooking – Food glorious food! …

… And the somewhat guilty pleasure of Netflix!


Favourite place to visit in…

Jakarta:
An early morning walk through the Kampungs of Setiabudi (my neighbourhood). After three years I never tire of what the tiny laneways deliver. Such diverse lives smack bang in the centre of Jakarta.

Pasar Setiabudi
Wandering through the pasar in Libby’s neighbourhood of Setiabudi, Jakarta

Indonesia:
Papuan Highlands – Balliem Valley. Well maybe for this I have to say Papua (both provinces). I just love the tribal culture.

Korowai Papua
Korowai tribe, Papua Indonesia
Children of Balliem Valley
Children from the Balliem Valley dressed traditionally for a pig feast
tribesman of papua
A Papuan tribesman

The World:
Khaplu Palace, Baltistan (was once called Little Tibet) in the Himalayas of Northern Pakistan. The most breathtaking mountains and fascinating Tibetan architecture. Khaplu stole my heart.

Khaplu Palace
Khaplu Palace – Baltistan, Pakistan. This is Libby’s most favourite hotel in the World
Khaplu Palace – Baltistan, Pakistan
Khaplu Palace – Baltistan, Pakistan


Favourite band/musicians
Rising Appalachia: An American folk and soul sister group – it’s all about their harmonies and their support given to community based projects that focus on uniting arts and justice. Just love them.

Florence + The Machine: My favourite song is Dogs Days Are Over. It makes me get up and wiggle.

And right now there is one song that just turns me into a melting moment: No Peace by Yebba and Sam Smith. She is AMAZING….a newly found talent, and together they are magical.

But for my favourite Indonesian bands from yesteryear I love trawling through the jukebox of www.iramanusantara.org


Favourite book of all time
Too difficult to give you ONE…so here are my all-time favourite three (not easy either):

The Master by Irish writer Colm Toibin. A novel that covers a snap shot about Henry James. The story line is one thing but for me it’s Toibin’s writing style – wonderfully intelligent.

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières. I read it whilst stuck in a blizzard in the Himalayas of Nepal. Heartwarming and heart-wrenching all in one.

An Evil Cradling by Brian Keenan. A biography of the time he was kidnapped in Beirut in 1985. Not only is his (and John MCCarthy’s) story gripping but it’s the ways he write. A master piece of the 20th century.


Favourite Insta feed/Apps/Blogs
Instagram: Serena Crawford – An interior design and stylist who lives in Cape Town. It’s not so much her pics but the stories that go with them and the way she shares her life. Love it.

App: Skyscanner – Well maybe not my most favourite but definitely my most used and useful App (after Insta and Spotify). I spend so much of my time booking flights – looking for the fastest yet most economical route.

Blogs: I just don’t read them anymore. Well rarely.

 

Something people would find surprising about you…
I cooked for the Queen and other royalty.

I’m the author of a best-selling travel biography called,  Monsoon Rains & Icicle Drops, 2006.

Monsoon Rains and icicle drops
‘Monsoon Rains & Icicle Drops’ is Libby’s travel biography published in 2006. It is a tale of profound love and incomprehensible loss; adventure and the strength of the human spirit (Photograph by a Journey Bespoke)


Do you have any New Year’s Resolutions for 2018?
I’m not a resolution maker. I live by the motto, “live life to the fullest”, and in doing so, no resolutions are needed.


And finally, what is the best way for our readers to keep up with your journey?
Definitely on Insta @libbyowenedmunds @cookseatsandliveswell

hush valley, Baltistan
Libby in Hushe Valley, Baltistan in Pakistan. This place is located deep in the Karakorams. Libby hitched a ride on this tractor after being caught in a landslide

I’m still swooning over Libby’s photos – and I bet you are too. Which are your favourites? I love them all but in particular, the photo of the three children from Papua’s Balliem tribe really tugs at my heartstrings.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and feelings relating to today’s post. Please comment below.

 

And if you’re keen for more posts that delight visually, we recommend you check out the following – 

Vanessa van Houten, Photographer, Jakarta Indonesia
Our favourite AJB Instagram Images of 2017
Five of our Favourite Instagram Accounts
Bring some Street Photography to your Home
Meet Nita Strudwick of Nita Strudwick Photography

*Kenalkan – let me introduce you to..
*Kampung – local village
*Warung – shop

Words: Libby Owen-Edmunds & Jo Stevens    Photography: Libby Owen-Edmunds (unless otherwise stated)

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