Photographer and Green School student Reo Palmer thrives on Bali’s ability to activate true passion.
Reo, can you tell us a little about how you grew up, and what’s important to you?
The first years of my life were spent growing up in a small beach town in Australia. I moved here to Bali when I was seven and this is where I have lived most of my life. I feel my heart belongs to this island. What’s important to me is that my parents took this opportunity to move to Bali as it’s really shaped who I am as a person – If I wasn’t here I just wouldn’t have such huge international connections with friends and people, or speak different languages, and most importantly I wouldn’t have such an understanding of Bali.
It’s pretty clear from your photography that you have a tight group of friends in Bali, did you all grow up together?
I have a huge group of friends from all ages and nationalities. We call ourselves “Bali Kids” and that’s what people call us too. A lot of us come and go. We all share the same interests and have our own take on creativity and activism movements here.
What values do you think you share as a generation of Bali kids?
We are very conscious about respecting race, cultures and the environment. I and a group of friends have become activists and we use our social media to raise awareness. And a lot of us take on projects – for instance I have created a recycled silver line, with funds going to the HAKA Sumatran rainforest conservation NGO. When I took a trip to Borneo and witnessed the devastation of our rainforests I knew I had to do something. Please take a look! www.silverfortheforest.com I think values come from the respect we have for our nature and lands and that living in Indonesia we are constantly confronted with environmental issues, from plastic, to rainforest, to water, to infrastructure.
How much have those values and beliefs been shaped by the Green School?
Moving to the Green School has been the best decision I have made in my life. The way they have grown and taught me to be the conscious and creative person that I am, and allowing me to take control of my high school education. I would say it has been a great combination of self-motivation and compassion, and the Green School has been the best supporter and provider of information and resources.
When did you first pick up a camera and why?
I was 12 years old and I remember the day so clearly. My dad brought a new camera, so I tested it out and really enjoyed playing with it and got the hang of it pretty quickly. I walked around my kampung in Berawa taking pictures and when my dad scrolled through the photos he was really impressed with what he saw. He created a page on his Facebook account and named it “Eyes through a 12 year old” and I got some impressive comments. I remember how much enjoyment I got that day and I have kept it up ever since.
It seems that almost everyone is a photographer these days, what makes your work stand out do you think?
Photography is forever growing, but for me it is passion and authenticity that makes the difference. I like to shoot raw and rare moments. If I am doing travel and people photography I like to use my eye to either create awareness or capture true ways of life/living. If it’s fashion then I like to bring out the creativity on sets, designs and the way models work with me.
You’re a vegan – is that a reflection of your view of the world, or is it driven by a desire for better health … please share with us your reasons.
Veganism for me was is about limiting the suffering of animals. I started by researching and discovering the environmental issues and ethics behind the industries. I gained and fulfilled a true and deeper level of love in my heart for all injustices and knowing that I am not a contributor to any of that.
Good health is also a big reason! Since becoming vegan I have learn a lot of values through the self and the world we live in.
Bali has obviously had a powerful and positive effect on you, but do you think there are also dangers involved in growing up on this island?
I think wherever you live you need to make the right choices, and I think it really depends on the individual. As you know Bali, being a more care-free island . . . there’s a lot that slips through your fingers. But no matter where you are you need to be smart and respect the law and its people.
You’ve just been accepted to Raleigh International Trust to work with indigenous people in Borneo, can you tell us a little about that and what it means to you?
Raleigh International was a trip encouraged by Green School to explore the diversity of tribes and wildlife in Indonesia/Asia. I jumped on a plane solo to Borneo and lived in the jungle with just a knife, a backpack, no telephone, computers, just a camera, for five weeks and that was it. Living and working getting in touch with the indigenous lifestyle really. I helped build gravity fed water systems and trekked through the forest for 10 days, where we made home with our rucksacks and a hammock for sleeping. It was amazing.
Learning how to survive and thrive on just the surroundings of nature and learning how important the rainforest is to these people and our planet fuels a strong fight for protection. I was so in touch with nature and was blown away by the living traditions and knowledge of the orang asli.
You’ve also just returned from a silent retreat we understand … can you tell us about that?
WOW! It was intense. I highly recommend a silent meditation to anyone. Especially to reconnect with your true self.
Social media … a force for good or an ego-fuelling black hole? Discuss.
Oh, good question. It really depends how you use it. I would say personally it’s more of a force for good. I simply wouldn’t be where i am today without my social media. I truly believe that through social media I have inspired younger and older generations to become more conscious consumers and really have created awareness for sharing environmental issues. Same for my photography. I get a lot of work through social media and connect with a lot of like-minded people too. But there’s definitely another side to it, and it can be like any sort of media, manipulating and fake. Be careful how you use it.