Photo Gallery: Jenya Ivkov and his Balinese portfolio

Matt George
Swellnet Dispatch

Introduction by Matt George
Photos and captions by Jenya Ivkov

Imagine being a stoked surfer but living 10,000 kilometres from your favorite waves. A one-time Moscow interior design photographer named Jenya Ivkov knows the feeling well. On assignment to Bali in 2009 to photograph the interior of tropical villas, he took a surf lesson on Kuta Beach. 

He was hooked for life. 

Ivkov knew then and there that the future of his photography would switch to the interior of Bali’s best waves. So back in freezing cold Moscow, 10,000 kilometres from Bali and the waves he loved, Ivkov worked five long years to get back. He had always dabbled in sports photography, BMX, skateboarding, snowboarding, but since his visit to Bali he always dreamed of fisheye images of the expansive “blue barrels” he had seen from the cliff at Padang Padang. 

In 2014, the challenge became a reality when he moved to the island to chase his dreams. His learning curve astonished everyone. With his intimate water work and his sublime land shots, he soon became one of the most sought after surf photographers in Bali. A master of the foreground, from shore Ivkov often manages to meld both Bali’s rich culture and Bali’s surf culture at once.

Preferring to keep his photos on the darker spectrum is something he admits to saying is “very Russian”. Yet the results are unique and fresh in photo saturated Bali. 

“I am not interested in postcards,” he says. “I am interested in the ambient drama of the moment and sometimes that takes manipulation of the image, like composing music with fanfare”. 

Now splitting his time between his commercial work and the sea, just as he had once dreamed, Ivkov has found a warm home in the blue barrels of Bali. 

In a cliff-side warung at Uluwatu, Jenya Ivkov and I had a chance to open his computer and discuss a few of his favorite shots from the incredible run of swell that has been bombarding the island.

Betet Merta: “For me shots like this are primarily about creativity. It quickly became not interesting to me to simply photograph surfers like a reporter. Now I first come up with pictures in my head and then I try to bring them to life. To the level of the surfer’s life in that moment”. 

Bukit Waves: “I really like landscapes with wave lines. It feels like the waves and I are both on a constant search for the best angle. Them from sea, me from land. The drone technology has helped, but I find you still need to be sensitive and not just a spy. This is an example of that dark palette I like. I send mine up on overcast days mostly to get that ghostly look. Plus, this is my favorite wave field in the world. Look at all that fizzing oxygen. It’s like white lace”

Garut Widiarta: “Yes, a couple of times I was invited to photograph the surfing competitions in Sochi, on the Black Sea in Russia. In autumn and winter there are sometimes waves. But in general I really wanted to visit Kamchatka. Now during the period of closed borders, many Russian surfers have left for Kamchatka and ride there now. Wilderness surfing. Rubber wetsuits. But when I look at this shot of Garut Widiarta at his home break, with all the drama and the focus of the surfer’s face surrounded by warm light and warm water…well…I forget about Kamchatka”.

Keramas: “I consider some of my works to be art. It makes the commercial side of things easier to swallow. Like most artists, I do my commercial jobs to earn money, and then do the art. That is great about surfing, you can always find the art in it”.

Kopral Sunata: “I like stylish surfers like Torren Martyn, Craig Anderson, Rob Machado, Mike February…but the Indonesian’s have a style all their own. They are so tuned into their waves it’s like a dance for them. Very graceful, very well positioned, poised, connected to the wave through their boards like the boards of a stage. And at the Padang Padang Photo Studio, sometimes they just bring a sense of fun to it all”. 


Made Adi Putra: “I met photographer Tim McKenna. He came to Moscow to teach a master class. I still admire his work. You can see a lot of his influence in this shot. He was always about timing”.

Mega Semadhi: “I shoot with a Canon 5d mark 4, 15mm fisheye, 16-35mm, 50mm 1.2, 70-200mm and 150-600mm. In the water it’s a Liquideye waterhousing. I think you owe it to great surfers to use great equipment. Just like they are. Then there is a trust between the both of you. And then you get shot like this with Mega Semadhi stalling and calm where most surfers would be screaming to just survive. In this shot, Mega reminds me of a hunter letting the lion get real close before raising his rifle. Taking that time to express your nerve”.  

Rizal Tandjung: “Sometimes you get that direct connection when a surfer knows you are there and he stares down the barrel of your camera and expresses himself. Like in a movie when the actor accidentally looks at the camera, it can take you out of the moment. But sometimes, it can take into into another world. This was the wave of the day. Just a giant barrel. And in this moment Rizal looked like he had been hit with lightning. This is like a battleground photo”. 

Rizal Tandjung: “I love swimming out to Padang Padang on a big day like this and just capturing the whole story from further back with a long lens. It flattens the image so that it looks like a billboard. And I don’t mind the photographers in the foreground. They are part of the story. Their outstretched hands like an offering, their bunched muscles adding that power and drama to the moment. The colour of their cameras. It makes you feel like you are swimming with them, just about to duck under a moving mountain”.  

Varun Tandjung: “Look at that horsetail lip! Beautiful. This is one of those last shots of the day. The sun just below the horizon, the wind abating, the clouds turning pink. Everybody, including the photographers, tired and stoked but just getting the last one in. That moment of a day when it becomes a memorable one. Like photographers, not all surfers become rich doing it, but we are both connected to each other by a rich life doing what we love”.

 

Comments

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot commented Thursday, 13 Aug 2020 at 12:53pm

nice photos.
I particularly like the drone photo, made me think where I'd like to be sitting at O.C and the memory of the sweep taking you around the corner as you paddle out from the cave, then the long paddle back to get into position.
fuck i'd love to be back there now

dandandan's picture
dandandan's picture
dandandan commented Thursday, 13 Aug 2020 at 3:50pm

Yeah I can kind of see the spot I tend to sit in too. I've been having heartbreaking flashbacks, always to that feeling after pulling off a long wave at OC and paddling back out seeing stacked lines of glassy walls coming down the reef. The sound of the lip cracking the surface, the feeling of that enormous offshore spray of warm water coming off the back of a big one on your skin.... it's killing me.

The swim from Ulus to Padang also looks much more manageable from this angle!

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot commented Thursday, 13 Aug 2020 at 3:57pm

“ The swim from Ulus to Padang also looks much more manageable from this angle!”

It does hey, at least to the beach before it. Thomas or Thompson’s ??

dandandan's picture
dandandan's picture
dandandan commented Thursday, 13 Aug 2020 at 4:23pm

Thomas. Thought according to Jim Banks it's a nightmare to come in at:

"After a long hard swim and inadvertently almost drowning in a seriously underestimated giant patch of thick froth, i eventually made it in through Thomas’s beach next to Padang. This is an absolutely nasty place to come in and i discovered that it’s even worse without a board! It now tops my list as the worst place anywhere to get out of the water. But me and my now hamburgered feet finally reached the shore.."

https://balisurfstories.wordpress.com/2011/12/26/jim-banks-setting-the-r...

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot commented Thursday, 13 Aug 2020 at 4:42pm

Yeah not so sure I’d take anything he says seriously...
Ya seen the shit he goes on about these days?!?
I remember reading an interview with Sean Woolnough about coming in there after his famous Ulus solo session and he said it wasn’t too bad from memory.

dandandan's picture
dandandan's picture
dandandan commented Thursday, 13 Aug 2020 at 7:17pm

Haha that's a fair point.

Yendor's picture
Yendor's picture
Yendor commented Friday, 14 Aug 2020 at 8:44am

Aaaah, the war tales of the aging charger..... Question,. How many times of a surf season do you think people do that swim to Padang or one of the closer bits of beach? Be interesting to know.
I think I'd be fucked, I'm pretty skinny and don't float to well, and I'm not the world's greatest swimmer. I've had to do some pretty big swims in my time and mostly I've blessed my wetsuit in the cold water I usually surf.

dandandan's picture
dandandan's picture
dandandan commented Saturday, 15 Aug 2020 at 9:01am

I don't know but some of the regulars I've spoken to have never had to do it in 30 odd years of surfing.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Monday, 17 Aug 2020 at 11:04am

Ol' Jim is only a post or two away from Messiah status:

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Monday, 17 Aug 2020 at 11:30am

Ironically, this lighthouse was deactivated in 2009.

razzle.minor's picture
razzle.minor's picture
razzle.minor commented Sunday, 23 Aug 2020 at 6:49am

I think that's a good metaphor for Jim's mind. I'm a huge fan of a lot of Jim's work; on a board, planer, maker of many things. But, his current 'philosophy' of recycled YouTuber conspiracy theory that can be de-bunked in 2 minutes of research has worn thin.

shanos.redgum's picture
shanos.redgum's picture
shanos.redgum commented Friday, 14 Aug 2020 at 10:08am

dandandan, In August 2012, I couldn't make the cave due to the high tide sweep in a solid swell. I eventually relented and made my way through Thomas beach by basically getting bashed in over 1 to 2 foot of water.
Yep, I also experienced that piece of reef as I floated on my favourite Billy Cilia handshaped 7'3 Nirvana(it also received some wounds)
There are now concrete steps up the cliff that go through the farmlet/accom that belongs to Thomas himself.
A bunch of fellow surfers gave me a knowing grin. One legend Aussie lent me what appeared a drum of betadine to douse my legs and feet with, then down the dirt road and back to Ulus warung to numb myself with a long neck....happy days!

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot commented Thursday, 13 Aug 2020 at 12:54pm

it looks like there's no one out too

amb's picture
amb's picture
amb commented Thursday, 13 Aug 2020 at 2:22pm

same here, but feels like its getting further away. Bali c-19 numbers are good but overall indo not so.

crg's picture
crg's picture
crg commented Thursday, 13 Aug 2020 at 3:05pm

Anyone who uses an analogy of "a hunter" raising a rifle to kill a lion is a fuckwit.

I'm not cheap,
But I'm free.

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot commented Thursday, 13 Aug 2020 at 3:56pm

Yes my first thoughts too, that was disturbing. Horrible analogy

Billyw's picture
Billyw's picture
Billyw commented Sunday, 16 Aug 2020 at 6:31pm

totally.

B Dub

GONAD_MAN's picture
GONAD_MAN's picture
GONAD_MAN commented Thursday, 13 Aug 2020 at 3:46pm

+1

shanos.redgum's picture
shanos.redgum's picture
shanos.redgum commented Friday, 14 Aug 2020 at 10:09am

+2

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba commented Thursday, 13 Aug 2020 at 4:36pm

pretty stock standard photos to me...sorry

simba

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Thursday, 13 Aug 2020 at 7:33pm

Agreed, nice pics but nothing there that makes me go wow.

He ain't no Jovic.

1173

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot commented Thursday, 13 Aug 2020 at 8:01pm

“He ain’t no Jovic”

Or Brokensha!

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig commented Friday, 14 Aug 2020 at 7:43am

Why thank you GF.

mr mick's picture
mr mick's picture
mr mick commented Thursday, 13 Aug 2020 at 7:45pm

Yep, same, tries to build it up with ‘exciting’ descriptions, nothing special

Mr mick

mattlock's picture
mattlock's picture
mattlock commented Thursday, 13 Aug 2020 at 8:18pm

Matt George scraping the barrel for stories.

Ray Shirlaw's picture
Ray Shirlaw's picture
Ray Shirlaw commented Thursday, 13 Aug 2020 at 8:46pm

To be fair .....he's a newby living his dream...yeh...the shots don't scream "epic day in indo & I'm about to paddle out"...

rooftop's picture
rooftop's picture
rooftop commented Thursday, 13 Aug 2020 at 10:21pm

They all look the same.

views from the cockpit's picture
views from the cockpit's picture
views from the ... commented Friday, 14 Aug 2020 at 5:54am

Hadn't bothered reading his blurbs until I saw the "hunter and lion" comment above.
The guy is a cockhead with average shots.
I'll never look at his stuff again!

ringmaster's picture
ringmaster's picture
ringmaster commented Friday, 14 Aug 2020 at 7:37am

Russians:

-a sure sign of masculinity and bravery is to let a majestic lion get within point blank range then shoot it dead with a high powered weapon.

Just another one now 'based' in Bali. At the rate russians are invading that place they'll be running the show in another 10 years.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Friday, 14 Aug 2020 at 8:28am

Nationality and game hunting allusions aside, I thought they were unreal photos, an almost gothic take on Padang Padang which is so often presented as brilliant blue. Rare to see a variation on a wave after decades of ogling.

And I thought his descriptions were unique too. I didn't even twig to the game hunter analogy, not sure if that makes me insensitive or what, but I enjoyed his observations. Surfing can easily become hackneyed, both imagery and words, so I think fresh eyes are valuable.

Yendor's picture
Yendor's picture
Yendor commented Friday, 14 Aug 2020 at 8:50am

I'm with you Stu, I liked the pulled back shots with photographers in foreground too. It shows the place for what it is, a sort of stadium for better or worse. Pipe is similar I guess

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Friday, 14 Aug 2020 at 8:41am

Yep Agree with that.....
A Single fin comp at Ulu this weekend whats the forecast ?

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig commented Friday, 14 Aug 2020 at 9:00am

Sharp as a tack images from the water, I love the drone shot as well showing the approaching set and OC.

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Friday, 14 Aug 2020 at 9:56am

I'm gonna run with my original thoughts- they're good photos but hardly groundbreaking. As for the hunter metaphor, I didn't give it a second thought.

Again, nice pics but he's no Jovic nor Brokensha:)

1173

T.Edds's picture
T.Edds's picture
T.Edds commented Friday, 14 Aug 2020 at 10:47am

I am glad that others have acknowledged that these photographs are far from remarkable. The have the marks of awkward post production, poor timing and unoriginal framing. Photographs of this nature only seem too exist by virtue of modern cameras, software and a basic willingness to swim out in the lineup.

I mean good on the fella for getting out there but the surfing world is crippled by a predisposition to blind praise.

As a paid subscriber I would like to know if Matt George or Phil Jarratt recieves payment for these articles?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Friday, 14 Aug 2020 at 10:55am

Matt George does, so does the photographer.

Not sure what Phil Jarratt has to do with it.

Mcface's picture
Mcface's picture
Mcface commented Friday, 14 Aug 2020 at 12:03pm

Good on you guys for paying them in the days of free internet economy. If that's what the subscription pays for (among all the other things), then it's a bonus.

I thought the shots were pretty good, but mainly its nice just to tune out over lunch with some escapism from where I'd rather be. Not every article can reach the lofty heights of Ding Alley!

I also found the Hunter analogy a little off but will give them the benefit of the doubt.

amb's picture
amb's picture
amb commented Friday, 14 Aug 2020 at 5:14pm

+1 , enjoy Matts articles..i was a bit non plussed by the pics but after the above words had another look and can see why SN ran them..

Trentslatterphoto's picture
Trentslatterphoto's picture
Trentslatterphoto commented Friday, 14 Aug 2020 at 4:49pm

great shots

I focus's picture
I focus's picture
I focus commented Friday, 14 Aug 2020 at 5:45pm

Not near your level Trent

maka2000's picture
maka2000's picture
maka2000 commented Monday, 17 Aug 2020 at 11:19am

bloody russians, they're everywhere now, they are like cockroaches. north side has a few of them, so antisocial creatures.

Russian's picture
Russian's picture
Russian commented Friday, 21 Aug 2020 at 11:27pm

That's a very general comment my comrade.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Monday, 17 Aug 2020 at 11:45am

Looks like the weekends Ulu Single fin comp was fun
A few short clips up on Single Fin Facey page..
Muzzas Pipedreams were popular..

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot commented Monday, 17 Aug 2020 at 12:42pm

Udo reckon you could chuck a link up for us mate?

Riddy's picture
Riddy's picture
Riddy commented Monday, 17 Aug 2020 at 1:49pm

Great shots mate