Mario Pulafi: The Borneon Lad

Born in 1994 in West Borneo, Mario Palufi moved to Australia in 2012 to pursue higher studies in social media marketing, but his interest towards the visual arts and other creative fields lead him to finding his feet in photography and videography. The 26-year-old freelances in the time he is not working as a barista, with some impressive creative projects under his belt, having collaborated with the likes of Australia, Rode Mic, Lexus, Birkenstock, among others. In addition to still images and short films, Palufi has always been fascinated by the creativity that endeavors in fashion, music, paintings, architecture, interior design, graphic design can offer. Staying true to his roots as the ‘Borneon Lad’, Palufi is an artist in progress, continuously finding inspiration and honing his craft, while juxtaposing diverse young adult identities with changing city landscapes in his work.

Palufi cites his childhood years and family as formative for his interest in the visual arts and music. His father gifted him with a 2MP Olympus camera in his high school days as a reward for getting good grades, which motivated him to begin experimenting with photography. He started participating in school level competitions and borrowed DSLRs from friends to practice and also learn Adobe Photoshop. Even though his family was more musically inclined, Palufi stuck to the visual side of the arts since he found them the best mediums to express himself. He eventually bought himself a Canon 7D as a 21st birthday present to himself and continued elevating his craft. 

His work captures the boldly colorful aesthetic of the millennial adult. His stills and motion series, Gen X  and Home 2, both feature intimate moments with their subjects, all in the bold colors of street lights. Gen X presents the intimacy, struggles, and harmony in the relationships we maintain once we reach adulthood, with three individuals to convey the balance between maintaining old friendships and blossoming romance. Mario blurs the lines of normative relationships while exploring the age-old issues of heartache and loss while trying to form new bonds. The moody neon hues and balanced framing perfectly convey conflicting sentiments of pain and love, as he takes you on a literal ‘dreamy adventure in a carnival’.

Home 2 also explores the transitionary nature of leaving one’s native land and finding home in a foreign land, and the conflicting feelings that arise because of it. His choice of models add to the diversity of his photographs, taking centre stage in the surreal environment that he manages to make of day to day surroundings and scenarios. The series showcases the dilemma of erstwhile immigrants, as they leave their native culture and homeland behind, heading towards the West for a more fruitful life, and somehow also find some peace in the banality and richness of it all.

Shot on the beautiful cliffs of the Mornington Peninsula, Palufi’s Mémoire features Isaac Mayne as Palufi’s muse. This experimental short film incorporates the use of both black and white as well as colour. Being non-narrative in nature, Mémoire is comprised solely of moments that Mayne has by himself in the midst of nature, with the crashing waves serving as both an aural and visual background. The color-grading is staggering, the soft glowy frames give the film an ethereal feeling deserving of its location and aesthetic. Palufi maintains that surrealism in his urban photography as well, with saturated colours and high contrast gripping attention in his city portraits and cinemagraphs.

While Palufi draws inspiration from all sources and variations of arts, literature, and music, he is majorly motivated by his own life experiences, his conversations with different people, and their stories. He cites street photographers such as Martin Parr, Alex Webb, Elliott Erwitt, Vivian Maier, and Fan Ho as influences on his work; he learnt composition and understood the role of light, contrast, texture, and geometry in his mise-en-scène. He makes it a habit to click pictures of whatever fascinates him in daily life, regardless of the device, purely for the joy of simplicity of this kind of documentation, as opposed to photographing for the purpose of “creating art”. Palufi is a visual architect: he always visualizes first and aims to tell stories as such. Even in his quarantine days, he has been studying screenwriting in order to better understand the process of filmmaking and eventually make a short film

Mario dreams of running successful marketing campaigns for the various businesses he has planned, including a production house and a clothing brand, so that he does not have to worry about his bills while he creates art. However, he wants to continue to pursue photography as a hobby so as to continually enjoy the process of it. He also aspires to have his own exhibitions, in which he can interact with his audience in a more personal & meaningful way and gather their thoughts on his work in the process. For now, he is content with putting his works online on social media platforms since he gets a chance to showcase his work to new, diverse audiences and communicate with other creatives as well. You can find more of Palufi’s work at borneonlad.com

All images by Mario Pulafi.

Text by Nikita Saxena.

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