About Rio Helmi

Born in 1954 to an Indonesian diplomat father and a Turkish mother, Indonesian photographer and writer Rio Helmi has been capturing images  of Asia and writing 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 London, Rome, Boston, Washington and Tokyo.

In the past Rio 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, Myanmar, Thailand, Japan, Ladakh and Mongolia, photographing both remote tribal people and modern urban life.

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 for many regional and international magazines (Asiaweek, Geo, Harper’s Bazaar, New York Times, New York magazine, Tempo [Indonesia], Time, Vanity Fair, Vogue). He has published several large format photo books – among others ‘River of Gems, a Borneo Journal’ (text by Lorne Blair), and ‘Bali Style’.

Rio has been based in Bali for more than four decades, and speaks five languages fluently.
He writes in Indonesian and English, and has blogged about a wide range of topics  for the Huffington Post and the website ubudnowandthen.com dedicated to his place of residence, Ubud. He has also moderated panel sessions and conducted public interviews at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival which is now an annual event of international repute.

His book Memories of the sacred,  retrospective portfolio of Bali of over 35 of documentation years with text by Diana Darling, was launched early October 2010 by Afterhours publishing in Jakarta, is perhaps his most important work on Bali to date. Rio’s latest is a book on architecture: “Popo Danes – Bali Inspired” which was launched in 2019 by Rizzoli.

Ongoing projects include a series of urban-scapes from various cities, documentation of migrant workers from Java in Bali, and a new series of aerials of Bali.



Sole or main photographer in the following books:

  • Bali High, Paradise from Above – joint aerial photography with Leonard Lueras (Times Editions, Singapore)
  • Bali Style – a book on the living environments of Bali (Thames&Hudson/Times Editions)
  • Made in Indonesia (Equinox, Jakarta)
  • Memories of the Sacred (Afterhours, Jakarta)
  • Nusa Dua, Reflections of Bali (Editions Didier Millet, Singapore)
  • Over Indonesia – an aerial view of the country, joint photography with Guido Rossi & GeorgGerster (Times Editions, Singapore)
  • Popo Danes – Bali Inspired
  • River of Gems, A Borneo Journal (Image Network Indonesia, Bali)
  • Travels on Two Wheels – a broader perspective on Bali

Photos published in large format photo books:

  • Bali, The Ultimate Island (Times Editions, Singapore)
  • Borobudur, A Prayer in Stone (Editions Didier Millet, Paris)
  • Borobudur, Golden Tales of the Buddha (Periplus Editions, Sing.)
  • Brunei Abode of Peace (Editions Didier Millet, Singapore)
  • Crafts of Indonesia (Times Editions, Singapore)
  • Indonesia, A Voyage Through the Archipelago (Millet- Owen-Weldon)
  • Thailand – Nine Days in The Kingdom
  • The Philippines, A Journey Through the Archipelago
  • 7 Days in Myanmar