Aung San Suu Kyi

Snap decisions

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 December, 2011, 12:00am

Some professional photographers pine for the good old days of film, when images emerged on paper in a small darkened room after spending time sloshing about in potent chemicals. Not Robin Moyer. He relishes the digital age. 'People who say they prefer film to digital are not purists - more stupid than purist. I don't understand why anyone would want to shoot film any more. It's so limiting. Digital allows much greater control, allows the shooter more power to make the image he visualises. I'm afraid my old wooden 8x10 is a paper weight now,' says the US-born photographer.

Moyer's love-affair with photography started in the 1970s when, after a stint in film school and bursting with inspiration from Robert Frank, Mark Riboud and Philip Hyde, he packed his van with cameras - from Leicas to wooden 8x10s - to capture the quirky reality of life in rural America, whether it be a wild goose chase for a rare breed of woodpecker or a glimpse into the hallucinogenic rituals of the Sioux indians.

In 1995, Asia called. Moyer moved to Hong Kong to became a leading Asia-based photojournalist contributing to magazines such as Time, Life, The Far Eastern Economic Review and New York Magazine. Moyer captured some of the biggest news stories in the region from from the Soviet Occupation of Afghanistan in 1984 to the fall of Philippines leader Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 and the visit of Mikhail Gorbachev to Beijing in 1989. He's taken portraits of many leading Asian political and business figures including Lee Kwan Yew, Aung San Suu Kyi, Li Ka-shing, Kim Dae Jung and Deng Xiaoping and his new coverage has put him in some dangerous situations. 'Memories of conflict are always there - you never forget them.'

His image of Aung San Suu Kyi for the cover of Time is one of his most memorable. 'In the middle of the session her husband and son entered the room - it was a very special moment. I'm not sure how long it had been since they last saw each other ... it was moving. I try to stay as neutral as possible, but when the choice is between dictators and dictated, it's hard not to lean in the proper direction. After that she handed me a duck for my 10-year-old daughter, Sasha. When I got it home there was a piece of paper inside it - a letter asking Sasha about her schooling in the Philippines and if she was studying democracy. It's framed in her home in San Francisco.'

When photographing former Indonesian dictator Suharto, it was a rubber glove - the type used to rectally palpate a cow for pregnancy - that oddly helped him bond with the then Indonesian leader. 'The glove was hanging on a wall at an artificial insemination farm for cows. I told Suharto it was the same as we used on my farm when I was growing in South Dakota. As strange as it sounds it was a bonding moment.'

Today, Moyer takes on more commercial assignments, travelling the world to photograph golf courses. 'My father was a member of the Shek O Golf Club. He worked for DuPont. People would ask me to get them a pen but I'd have to tell them no, DuPont the chemical company.'

And looking ahead? 'I love photography. I'll shoot until I drop.'