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American Photography Open 2021: Meet Grand Prize Winner Hardijanto Budiman

By David Schonauer   Thursday October 28, 2021


You’ve seen the finalists.

Now meet the grand prize winner of the American Photography Open 2021 competition: Indonesian photographer Hardijanto Budiman, who takes the top spot for his image “Devastated” (at top). The powerful photograph captures the anguish of a doctor at a hospital near Jakarta in the moments after lost a patient to covid-19.

“Thank you so much for your support. I'm very happy to hear these good news,” said Budiman on learning that he was this year’s winner.

Budiman, who is based in BSD City, about 40 kilometers outside of Jakarta, Indonesia, made the winning photograph last April 22, at a hospital in Bintaro Tangerang Selatan, Indonesia, an area near Jakarta. It is there that a friend of his, Doctor Agus Heriyanto, works.

“The story of the photo began with a small talk we had over lunch together in a restaurant near my house,” recalls Budiman. “During the conversation, he told me about his work during the peak of coronavirus outbreak in Indonesia. He said he worked 14 to 16 hours almost every day.” The mounting number of deaths resulting from the covid-19 crisis took both an emotional and physical toll on hospital staff, the doctor told Budiman. “After hearing his story,” says Budiman, "I asked his permission to document his daily work.”

Wearing protective gear, Budiman (below) photographed Doctor Heriyanto attending to the sick. The pain of losing another patient to the coronavirus is palpable in his Budiman’s photograph. “He told me once that sometimes he feel devastated when he faces a situation where the line between life and death is very thin, so I titled the photograph ‘Devastated,’” says Budiman.


Budiman, who was born in Jakarta in 1968, took up photography some 20 years ago. “My first camera belonged to my late father—a 1963 Leica,” he says. “Basically I'm a self-taught photographer. I decided to be a professional photographer in 2008.” His win in the AP Open 2021 contest adds another award to a long list of some 250 photography prizes Budiman has won over the years. He says he does not classify himself as a “pure” photographer. “My works are like the Journey of my life!  It is all about the expression of imagination, emotion and experiences,” he notes.

Budiman shoots everything from still-life work to landscapes and fine-art projects that mix whimsy and emotion. Through photography, Budiman says, he was able to find a “lost world” of imagination.

“My creativity flows like water in a river. There is no perfect moment or place that makes me feel more creative,” he says. “Sometimes ideas just pop into my head, as simple as that,” Budiman told one interviewer. The influence of artists including Salvador Dali and Rene Magritte are apparent in much of his fine-art work, which he creates through a storyboarding process and which draws on graphic design and illustration as well as photography. “I call my artworks ‘Imaginary Story Pictures,’ and I am the Imaginary Story Teller!” he says.

Budiman’s documentary image of Doctor Heriyanto shows the breadth of his camera skills. “I'm a typical person who loves to challenge myself constantly, so I enjoy every process no matter how good or bad the end result is,” he says.

For winning the American Photography Open 2021 competition, Budiman receives $5,000 and prizes from our sponsors: a choice of a Tamron SP 15-30mm F2.8 Di VC USD lens (for Canon or Nikon DSLRs and mirrorless cameras with mfg. adapter; $1,299 value) or both a Tamron 17-28mm F2.8 Di III RXD and a Tamron 28-200mm F2.8-5.6 Di III RXD lens (for Sony e-mount; $1,628 total value); a SanDisk 1 TB Extreme Pro Portable SSD; a PhotoShelter two-year Pro account; and a two-hour business consultation with The Photo Closer.

And congratulations again to Zay Yar Lin, winner of this year's year’s SanDisk Share Your World prize, and to Marcin Zajac, winner of the Tamron World Through Your Lens/Travel prize.

On behalf of all the judges and sponsors for this year’s competition, we pass along congratulations to Hardijanto Budiman and to our other finalists as well as to the photographers on this year’s shortlist. We also want to thank everyone who entered the contest and offered us remarkable glimpses of life from all around the world.  A printed copy or a downloadable free pdf of this years Short List and winners is available here

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