Irma by © Felix Firnhaber
Who or what are your main influences in photography?
People coming from different backgrounds, living in different cultures and having their own narratives! I still don’t know if I am an introvert or an extrovert to be honest. There are times where I can feel content being on my own and doing my own things for the whole week, but there are also times where I can be out and about the whole week just to have conversations with friends and strangers. Talking and listening to people really help me to break my own internalised biases as well as socially-constructed stereotypes and prejudice. Everyone has their own stories and builds themselves differently. Also, this motivation applies to all kinds of photography that I do!
© Irma Fadhila
Do you have a preference between portrait photography, nature and architecture, or events?
Hehe :-))) my true passion is documentary photography which involves portrait, nature, architecture, still-life and so on. Obviously I do mostly fashion, events and commercial photography so that I can pursue my other self-funded projects.
© Irma Fadhila
Do you have a favourite scene in a film in regards to cinematography?
I am a big fan of Wong Kar-wai, a film director from Hong Kong. His movies “Chungking Express” and “In the Mood for Love” are probably my all-time favourites. Not only I admire the way he puts his characters in frame together without both of them being explicitly there, but also their personality and quirkiness – how they talk and move. <3
Here are my fav stills from both movies:
© Wong Kar-wai (1-3 Chungking Express, 4-6 In the Mood for Love)
© Irma Fadhila
Would you like to express the beginnings of your Where Am I Really From project?
It all started after being questioned “Where are you from?” almost every single day by any kind of person (friends of friends during park hangs, cute strangers on the dance floors, or even rude strangers on the street). The thing is, even before they asked me where I am from, they built certain assumptions already in their heads just by having a glance through my skin colour and the size of my eyes. Sometimes people would even play the guessing game before I even had the time to explain myself. These days -especially if you live in a big city like Berlin- people come from different parts of the world, so why can’t we ask other more interesting small-talk ish questions? Who a person is, is not entirely built on where they (really) are from. Therefore, I intended to prepare a platform for those who wish to share their stories but never really got the opportunities.
Did the Covid pandemic make anti-Asian racism even more of a pressing topic to be addressed?
For sure, especially in the beginning when people blamed the Chinese for the virus. Before the pandemic, the microaggressions were much more directed to women and their objectified bodies. However, since the pandemic I heard from my own friends who experienced it firsthand that it happens to people of all genders and ages. This is truly heartbreaking. But what is interesting, non-Asian people think that it only happened since the beginning of the pandemic. No, it has been happening since forever and we have been trying to talk about it even before the pandemic, but nobody would really listen or pay attention to it.
Is there another Where Am I Really From exhibition on the way?
I’m afraid not! But maybe someday, who knows? I am currently working on another project called “(un)Covering Melanin” which is more research-based and I focus on the colourism issue here. Also, the aim is to produce an interactive installation in the end, but it is still a work in progress. I hope to explore other related topics that can be transformed into long-term projects as well in the long run, and I intend to keep doing projects that can amplify the voices of the Southeast Asian community.
How has the Covid pandemic affected your photography practice?
I think my socialising skill is more affected here. I realised that I am not as spontaneous as before! I cannot just bring my camera outside and talk to random people (and corona-hygiene thing too ofc). Not so much on the photography practice side I think. Because for instance, last year I was still able to do a photo project that only involved buildings. I am looking forward to seeing how it will pan out during the second half of this year.
© Irma Fadhila
How are you influenced by the community around you?
I absorb people’s energy a lot and easily. It is both a blessing and curse. Sometimes I feel like I have all the time, energy and resources to help and support the communities around me. I tend to forget to take a break and will just have a burnout in the end. But well, I am slowly learning, that there are days that I have to think about nothing else and not feel guilty for doing nothing, as well as setting my own boundaries. At the moment my community focus is to create some more meaningful and impactful collaborations with diantara e.V. (https://www.instagram.com/diantara.ev/), which is a nonprofit organisation by Berlin-based Indonesian creatives (part of https://www.instagram.com/soydivision.berlin) with focus on cultural education, art activism and community healing.
Where do you see yourself and your career in five years? Have you always wanted to be a photographer?
I studied classical music, economics and visual communication design. Hehe yes, my interests are really broad which you can see as well through my photography styles and aesthetics. And no, being a photographer was definitely not a dream I had when I was a child even when I had my first toy camera when I was 8 years old. With all those studies and other hobbies that I have done, I knew that I always liked the idea of teaching, especially young children. But now after doing more research-based projects and giving lectures to adults, I realised how much I enjoy it more, especially during the question-answer sessions where we can have further discussions about things I probably did not even think about and they have more knowledge and ideas about it. So, I don’t have any concrete plans, really, although I want to pursue more projects in art direction and education in general.
If you could be a fruit, which one would you be?
Mangosteen in a heartbeat! Sweet and tangy, pretty light taste-wise, need some good twist to crack and open the fruit, and can leave some temporary reddish stains on your hands after. I am talking about the fruit btw :)
© Irma Fadhila
Irma is currently in the middle of developing an interactive photo series, performance and video installation that investigates the theme of colourism and eurocentric beauty standards among Southeast Asian people. In order to make this project come to life, Irma needs your support either by purchasing some of her made-to-order photo prints (https://www.cadudasa.com/prints) or go to this link (https://www.paypal.me/irmafadhila) if you still want to support without purchasing any prints!
Thank you Irma for your insightful responses! It has been beautiful to have this little window into your process, your life and the way your work interacts with the community around you. We are looking forward to catching more of your work as you release it.
Experience more of Irma’s photography on her website or instagram: