“Photography is healthy. Photography is a medicine. Photography is my mouth. Photography is an endeavour. I can breathe because of photography.”
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#CULTUREGAZE    by Eandaru Kusumaatmaja and muse, Angeeta Sentana 

“Building my name from zero, because the public never knew who I am” is how Eandaru, also known as Ean via email, described his hiatus from 2019. I first discovered Ean’s photos on twitter through a fanbase account. Perplexed to know who the photographer was, I started reading the twitter thread. Slowly, I heard myself talking, “Please let the photographer’s name be here. Tolonglah...” And there he was! I am appreciative, actually, very indebted to social media users who take their time to screenshot, tag or give details of where the original source came from. I immediately gave him a direct message, because I couldn’t wait. I wanted so eagerly to put him on MulaZine. His reply was instantaneous. 

The last trip to Jakarta for me, was when I just turned 15 years old. I was waiting for my PMR results and celebrated it with B’s and C’s eating Bakso.  I had the time of my life because I love Indonesian food and I love Jakarta. Now, I live in Jakarta vicariously through music. However, upon reading about Ean and studying his photos, he has opened a deeply personal gaze towards the Indonesian women and his country. According to Ean, photography is about perpetuating a moment. A story that is being made up, has already existed, it doesn’t matter. Persistence is key, and the key is being astonished. 

#MURAH-KABEH — Lulu Lutfi Labibi [fashion], Indieguerillas [arts] ,Ariwulu [music], Warung Murakabi [collective], Asmara Abigail [Muse], Sekarsari [Muse] 

As I get Ean to send me some photos, I wondered why his photographs almost, always look like they are stills from the film. He loves being candid and would rather capture as naturally as possible with minimal direction. “I let my subjects do what they want. Not all work has to be perfect, actually, I prefer imperfections. I like pictures that aren’t too meticulous because I take it as an honest approach to making art. Sometimes, those flaws even strengthen the narrative I would like to convey. Other than that, my references also come from film and arts of other mediums. Only taking references from photography would be boring, wouldn’t it?”

As the future feels more uncertain, I asked Ean to walk me through some of his fondest childhood memories in Jakarta and Yogyakarta, where he was born, to get to know him even better. Ean left his family and started living on his own and met many people from various social backgrounds that broadened his perspective. Through the experiences that Ean had, he learned to understand and differentiate characters and social psychology, albeit non- academically. Ean was very transparent with his stories even though our interview was conducted via email. He continued, “Ideas came from social problems I encountered, which I deliver through my works. In regards to Jakarta, the most memorable part was when I was chosen to be one of the official photographers at Jakarta Fashion Week. It was my beginning as a professional photographer. Another special thing about Jakarta is my partner, Timami. She is the girlfriend who would fire me up and nag me to grow.” Ean is shy and a pessimistic, as he represents himself. but, Timami was the beating heart and force that garnered him to move forward. She exudes the positivity that he needed and informing us in ways that he truly loves her. 

Personally, understanding photography through blurred lines of documentary and fashion has always been an ongoing study. His work, #CULTUREGAZE featuring his muse, Angeeta Sentana wasn’t complicated to understand how both can become a successful amalgamation. Angee, as Ean calls her isn’t one to compromise modernity and culture. The process behind the shoot was to first spend time with each other before getting in front of the camera. “That’s the essence of the photographic series,  explaining our view towards culture. We agreed that even when life must go on and some trends should be followed, we must not forget where we come from. Roots/culture is important so we don’t
stray and drown. We can try to learn all the way to China or to Rome, but we must never forget our home,” he says.

© Eandaru Kusumaatmaja

Ean’s photography puts women as the protagonist. Especially living in an image-based society, the male gaze is a debate (the standpoint of the current situations). To the question “what is it about photographing women that informs your essence?” Ean informs that there is a duality in everything, that even though photographing women is a greater part of his work, he does photograph men too. “I do enjoy photographing women more because I am interested in the lives of women––I can communicate with them well. Photography is all about feeling and chemistry right? Especially when the subjects are people. If my subject and I are not connected, the photographs will be lifeless.” From the love and fondness that Ean has of his girlfriend, it is understandable that fondness and admiration towards women are imbued through his photographs: “As to why women? I just love how beautiful they are.”

© Eandaru Kusumaatmaja
Lulu Lutfi Labibi [fashion], Indieguerillas [arts]

Ean’s photos offer a performative experience that allows the viewer to see through the visual elements of his subjects. In the age of Instagram and photographs, creativity for that matter is commanded by followers, likes, reposts––engagement. Ean explains about having imposter syndrome, and how that’s very normal especially if you never went to art school: “I always get confused when people asked me where I studied. Not having an art school behind me lowered my self-esteem.  However, I have now freed myself from it as this is my passion. I have people supporting me, and I can make art without the need for the art degree. I overcome the syndrome by working and creating more art.”

He refuses to think about what people might say, as art is freedom. “If my work is useful, it will be agreed upon anyway. Diaminkan.” Eager to see what he’s planning, Ean explains, “I plan to create work about women, children, profession, and freedom. This is because women often think that they will lose their freedom and profession when they have kids, resulting in fear to build a family. I’m just waiting for the pandemic to pass to start production as this should be teamwork and not solely mine.”

© Eandaru Kusumaatmaja
Firda Amelia [Art Direction], Anin Hanadhyas [Styling Assistant], Sarivirdausi
[Makeup-Artist] and Nindya Silvi [Muse]. 

With five words to end and to conclude this interview, Ean mentions: 

“Photography is healthy.
Photography is a medicine.
Photography is my mouth.
Photography is an endeavour.
I can breathe because of photography.” 

More from Eandaru Kusumaatmaja here.