From Taiwan to Toronto: Devin Yuwono on finding success during a pandemic

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By: Anastasia Blosser

When third-year Ryerson film student Devin Yuwono received an invitation to participate in Twist Gallery’s Life Through a Lens exhibit, he ignored it. The Instagram message seemed too good to be anything other than spam. Eventually, curiosity got the better of him and he responded.

Soon, Yuwono was communicating with staff to set a time to bring in his work and by August, he had eight of his cityscapes hanging side-by-side on the walls of the Queen Street West gallery.

“They said they wanted to give me the opportunity to showcase my art,” said Yuwono. 

“Having my work showcased in a gallery in a foreign country, it’s overwhelming and cool.” Born in Taiwan and raised in Indonesia, the international student expected to pack up his frames when the exhibition wrapped up on Aug. 31. However, when Yuwono arrived,  staff explained there was a surprise waiting for him. In the four weeks since the exhibit opened, he had sold half of his photos. 

“Slowly making my name here, that’s what I want to do”

Someone taking a picture over a high balcony in the clouds
Photo: Devin Yuwono

“It might not be a big deal for others, but for me personally, coming from Indonesia and then being able to sell my [pieces]…my work is going to be at someone’s home,” he said.

Surabaya, Indonesia is where Yuwono’s life changed. In 2018, he won first place at a short film competition with the directorial success of A Chocolate for My Sister, a five minute short that follows the relationship between two orphaned siblings, one of which has cancer.

Yuwono suddenly saw film and photography as a viable career opportunity. In 2019, he enrolled in Ryerson’s film studies program. 

“I was looking at universities all across the world,” said Yuwono. “Ryerson stood out the most. It’s fresh, it’s right downtown, where all the crowds are. That’s what you want for your art and media.” 

According to Yuwono, Ryerson was everything he needed in a creative environment and the exposure he craved. 

Glancing at his portfolio, one thing is evident; the photographer has range. From editorial portraits to dreamlike scenery, sleek automobiles and cozy cuisine, there doesn’t seem to be any subject that eludes Yuwono’s shutter.  

As an international student displaced from his dorm, Yuwono feels the pressure of creating while paying rent. Between classwork, full-time jobs and COVID-19 burnout, there isn’t much time left for artists to focus on expanding their skill set. 

“Ryerson stood out the most. It’s fresh…that’s what you want for your art and media”

Yuwono even went so far as to quit a job out of fear that it was killing his creativity and squandering his time in Canada.

Left physically and mentally drained, it was an uphill battle to reignite the spark that drew him to film studies three years ago.  At Ryerson, he is surrounded by friends who share artistic styles and help each other find opportunities. He says that the creative community is a core part of his education.

“It’s important to have the right circle of friends and content creators surrounding you. They support you and when they do good stuff, you feel pushed to do the good stuff as well. It sparked me to try to find my own style again,” said Yuwono.

Stylized photo of a gondola in a river between old buildings
Photo: Devin Yuwono

Back in the winter of 2020, Yuwono was recruited by a solo photographer to create promotional material for their project, A Night Out.

The concept was simple: a group of photographers compiled a collection of fashion photographs into marketable photobooks and sent the proceeds to frontline workers. 

Tattooed across his forearm is a script quote on the preciousness of time, a reminder of what motivates him to work hard. 

“Everybody is given the same amount of time in their life,” Yuwono said. “What we do during that time, it’s all up to us. Slowly making my name here, that’s what I want to do.”

A feature in a downtown gallery marks the first step.

Comments

    1. Liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it. I love your photos and the arts. Keep fighting and success for you

  1. I love your art style, will keep following you to your next projects! Take a moment if you feel overwhelmed and keep moving forward!

  2. I am proud of you, Dev.
    Keep passion & hard work, then you will achieve what you want.
    We always support you. Keel going.
    Uncle Lee, Jakarta

  3. “Great purpose and meaning! It’s amazing to see how you build ur passion for art and being such an incredible photographer for the world, keep it up, and all the best can’t wait to see more work in the future”

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