documentary photographer and writer working in Asia since 1979
Born in Switzerland in 1954 to an Indonesian father who was the Indonesian Ambassador to Switzerland and the Vatican, and a Turkish mother, Rio Helmi has been capturing images of Asia and writing articles since 1978. His work can be seen in magazines, documentaries and more than 20 large format photographic books. Solo exhibitions of Rio’s still photography have been held in Bali, Jakarta, Madrid, Miyazaki, Palo Alto, San Francisco, and Sydney, and his works are held in private collections around the world including in Boston, Hong Kong, Jakarta, London, Los Angeles, Rome, San Francisco, Sydney, Tokyo and Washington.
In the past Rio has focused on the interaction between indigenous peoples and their environment, and as a result has traveled extensively across the Indonesian archipelago and further afield across Asia including Malaysia, Thailand, Japan, India and Mongolia, photographing remote communities and ethnic groups.
In his early career he worked in collaboration with John Darling and Lorne Blair on the documentary feature Lempad of Bali, as second cameraman and stills photographer.
From 1979 to 1983, Rio worked as a photographer/writer and associate editor in the Indonesian media (Bali Post, Mutiara, Sinar Harapan, Tempo). Since 1983, Rio has freelanced contributing photo essays for many regional and international magazines (Asiaweek, Geo, Harper’s Bazaar, New York Times, New York magazine, Tempo, Time, Vanity Fair, Vogue etc).
Rio has been based in Bali for more than four decades, and speaks five languages fluently: Indonesian, Balinese, English, French, and German - as well as what he describes as a “very light smattering of Tibetan”. He writes in Indonesian and English, and also blogs sporadically about a wide range of topics including for the Huffington Post. He has also moderates panel sessions and conducts public interviews at the Ubud Writers’ and Readers’ Festival which is now an annual event of international repute.
His latest book is called “Travels on Two Wheels, a broader perspective on Bali” a series of unconventional panoramas about the island, and was published in 2014. Rio’s previous book was a retrospective portfolio of Balinese ritual over the last 30 years called “Memories of the Sacred” launched early October 2010.
The latest multiple photographer book project he has worked on is “Seven Days in Myanmar” published by Editions Didier Millet 2013.
The latest multi-photographer show he participated in was called “The Age of Photography” at Tony Raka Gallery in Mas, and explored the work of Indonesia based professional photographers in the realm of contemporary art, curated by leading Indonesian art critic Jim Supangkat
Ongoing long term projects include a series of urban-scapes and a documentation on migratory workers from Java to Bali. Rio also continues to work almost daily on a series called “Good Morning Ubud” for his website ubudnowandthen.com and published daily on the eponymous Facebook page. This year Rio has just completed a documentary project “Jangchub Lamrim” over four years on a series of teachings given by the Dalai Lama in South India.