The Jakarta Post
Through her lens, Dutch photographer Annemarie Ruys captures rapid changes happening in Indonesia and presents her story of Glam Seekers.
Ruys is not new to the country. She still remembers fondly the day she first set foot in her Indonesian father's homeland back in 1978.
'I was a little girl, at only 12 years old. As I got out of the plane, he [my father] said 'now you be careful because you are going to put your first footstep on a sleeping giant and it's about to wake up and your generation is about to see it stand up and walk around',' she said.
Ever since that first trip, Ruys, whose family resides in Holland, has visited Indonesia many times and as time goes by, she has witnessed how her father's prophecy has begun to unfold.
Fascinated by rapid changes in Indonesia, Ruys decided to document her father's homeland in her photo documentary project, called Glam Seekers.
'As a photographer you develop an eye,' Ruys explained her decision to start the project.
'Glam Seekers is a documentary and it is all about very fast changes in lifestyle. It is not particularly just in Indonesia. You see it in many places in the world and it's due to a fast growing economy that you notice that lifestyles change rapidly.'
Glam Seekers is currently being exhibited 64 Dutch cultural center Erasmus Huis at the Fatahillah Gallery in Kota Tua, West Jakarta, until May 25. All of the photos feature young Indonesian women with cosmopolitan looks going about their daily lives.
The photos of the Indonesian women are part of Ruys' larger Glam Seekers project, in which she also captures the lifestyles of hip young women in other countries outside Western Europe.
The global exhibition of Glam Seekers, in which Ruys will exhibit all of her photos from different countries, is set to take place in 2020.
'I have encountered and captured these [kinds of photos] in other countries like Russia, Turkey and China. Indonesia for me is very special because it is a place of heritage and my father's home country,' said Ruys.
Ruys said what she saw in the attitude and lifestyles of young Indonesian women was not much different from those of their counterparts in other countries that she had visited for the Glam Seekers project.
'I think the girls that are in Russia, for instance, are also successful and beautiful and they also aim for success and the glamorous life. In Turkey, I encountered that too. In Eastern Europe, like in Czech, you will encounter exactly the same thing,' she said.
'These girls are very internationally oriented; most of them speak English and they read books and they are well educated.'
These young women, according to Ruys, all reached success through various business ventures at a young age and they perfectly represent the rapid changes within Indonesian society through the photos.
'All I did is use my own artistic point of view. I focused with an aesthetic eye of beauty on these young ambitious, beautiful women who are driven and successful in Indonesia,' she said.
'They want to grow, they want to show what they can do, they have ambition and they are very active and they deliberately choose different lifestyles from that of their grandmothers and parents.'
The young women in Ruys' photos are seen doing various activities with backgrounds that, in a way, are in contrast with the photos' main objects, like the one featuring a young woman posing in designer clothes with handbag in front of a dilapidated house.
When Ruys does not feature a contrasting background in her photos, she always includes something that looks to be out of place, such as a photo of a young woman posing in a fancy gown in the middle of her posh guest room, while in the background, an older woman wearing a simple polo shirt and shorts is looking at her with a blank stare.
Despite the various themes of her photos, there is one striking pattern ' all of them feature at least one pet dog.
Ruys said the dogs symbolized the heavy Western pop culture influences on how the women carried themselves in public.
'You must notice that this was made three years ago. At that time, Paris Hilton was famous for walking her little dog. She has this little handbag [for her] dog as an accessory and you notice girls all over the world began to do the same. That is the power of communication and branding, they want to have a dog like that.'
Ruys said she had never met any of the women before. She met most of them while they were taking their dogs for a walk around Renon Park in Denpasar, Bali.
She approached them in the street, explained her project and asked whether they wanted to work together. And she found enough young women willing to cooperate for her project.
For six weeks, the women allowed Ruys to follow them everywhere with her Canon 5D camera and to become a part of their lives.
She was even able to be around in their personal spaces, such as bathrooms and cars, in order to capture the best moments.
'I tried to capture the girls mainly when they are not particularly posing. I waited for the moment that was most natural.'
Personally, Ruys said she had no message to convey through the photos and would let her audience make their own conclusions.
'I embrace the changes in Indonesia. I think it's inevitable. It has good things and it has bad things, but the people in general, like these girls, are also genuine.'
For more information on Glam Seekers, please visit the Erasmus Huis Jakarta website at erasmushuis.nlmission.org/
' Photos by JP/Jerry Adiguna