By Taniya Dutta
These stunning pictures are work of ace photographer Achmad Zulkarnain – but he is not your average snapper.
Zulkarnain was born without limbs-he has malformed legs and hands. However, the young talent has not let his disability be a setback in his life or career growth.
“I am not disabled…just different from others,” says a smiling Achmand.
Almost disowned by his mother as a child, who wrapped him in a plastic bag out of shame but was stopped from throwing him away by neighbours, the 25-year-old has now become one of the most popular photographers in the country.
Whether it is nature photography or wedding photoshoot, Zulkarnain, also lovingly called Bong Dzoel or ‘funny brother’ by his colleagues, is flooded with assignments throughout the year and makes anywhere between 70-80 pounds per shoot.
But photography was not always in the cards for Zulkarnain who was born into a poverty-stricken family.
A law student, Zulkarnain had first tryst with camera four years ago to reduce the burden on his father as he made a measly income from working at a motorcycle repair shop.
Dzoel made money taking pictures of his community members for identity cards in his village in Banyuwangi in Java.
Soon he realised his heart was in photography.
He says: “My mother gifted me a camera so I can use it to supplement my father’s income. But gradually I started taking interest in photography and decided to learn techniques of professional photography.”
Dzoel then bought a DSLR camera on instalment and spent hours watching videos and pictures on internet to hone up his skills.
Eventually, he started going out for photo-hunts and events to click pictures.
“It was definitely not an easy journey. There were challenges but I was determined to face them.
“There was always a risk involved. Most of the nature photography required going up to the hills. I was alone and hiking and holding camera without support was not easy. In fact, I had fallen several times while protecting the camera but I never gave up.
“Gradually I started going to the events. Fellow photographers would look at me in surprise but I would say I was lucky that I got complete cooperation from people.
“Many photographer friends supported me, they even do. They stand with me and help me whenever needed,” he says.
Now a celebrated photographer, Zulkarnain says it was not always easy facing people.
His disability means he was mocked at by peers in school.
“It was a rocky childhood. I was taunted and humiliated by children at school.
“There was a time when I tried to take my life. I was in elementary school then. I had a knife and wanted to give up but just when I got it close to my wrist I got scared and dropped the knife.
“My life has always been about perseverance. I think what I am today is because of my mother. She always taught me that I was capable of doing anything and living a normal life.
“She was my biggest support system even though she was once ashamed of me!” laughs Achmand, who lost his mother to breast cancer two years ago.
Zulkarnain now hopes to infuse similar confidence among people like him and show them a way to live their life without any guilt.
Also an expert skateboard player and skilled keyboard and bass player, the photographer says: ” I want to tell people with physical shortcomings to never give up. We should make our lives best with what God has given us. We should work hard to improve our lives and bring equality among people.
“We are not disabled but just different people with a different way to work,” he emphasises.