From Jakarta #3

Photographer: Irene Barlian
Meet Irene Barlian, a young female photographer based in Jakarta. Her passion is documentary and travel photography and she has already won serious competitions.  Her work is being exhibited internationally. She is also a fashion photographer and takes on commercial work, especially food photography.
She was born in the same year I first came to Indonesia, 1989, and I really like this coincidence.
Irene and I will be working together on a shoot, and I cannot wait for it to happen and for the images.
Meanwhile please see her photography on her websites, she really does have very interesting and somewhat unusual images.
Talking with Irene over lunch  I got to know about a number of issues concerning photographers and also the fashion world here in Indonesia. Young artists like Irene have to struggle for sponsorship - as indeed is the case elsewhere. Apart from photographing, Irene does her own PR and management, hunting for commissions, which is time consuming.

Photographer: Irene Barlian
We talked about fashion and the insecurities engendered by having designers preferring non-Indonesian models to showcase their work in order to be  of international standard. 'Indonesian women' says Irene 'have different bodies, so to see ourselves represented by women built differently from us can make us feel somewhat uneasy about our looks'. It is also the case that diversity of age and ethnicity - Indonesia is made up of different ethnicities - is not truly represented. 'But we know it is a fiction [meaning fashion]' she says, 'and we can take it in our stride'  even though the clothes are ultimately for Indonesian consumers.
Irene also mentioned how so much travel photography about Indonesia is by European and American male photographers. It does reflect a different viewpoint, and  she is trying to redress the balance through her own work.
From Irene I learnt to look at shopping malls as places to socialise and walk around. In a city like Jakarta where walking  is not really possible, malls are a place to go to, just as in London, Paris or New York one would go for a walk in a fashionable district, window shopping. 'Malls are places where you can meet friends, window shop, use wifi and recharge your phone, if necessary' says Irene. 'I photograph people in malls, it's a version of street photography'. Indeed.
I will be meeting designers next week. We are approaching Jakarta Fashion Week, which will take place from 24th to 30th October. I look forward to  more encounters in my effort to gain an understanding of fashion in Asia.


  1. We used to have a phrase in the US, "the mall crawl," referring to young people's fascination with indoor shopping malls. Now, many of those old malls are closing due to economic factors, and are being replaced by multi-use developments that may include shops at street level and residences or business offices in the upper floors of buildings, but do not include any indoor open space. Even the biggest mall in the country, the Mall of America in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, is having trouble, or so I've heard. (It was also recently the subject of some unfavorable publicity when a mall cop brutalized a black woman.) So perhaps the "mall culture" is declining or dying...


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