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Jaya Khidir: On The Power Of Collaborations And The Importance Of Contextualising Images

To paraphrase George Orwell, if there's hope for the future, it probably lies with the next generation. Cynics may dismiss this as the rosy idealism of youth but hey, that can invigorate the imagination like nothing else. We spotlight seven up-and-coming Singapore students from different artistic disciplines whose works make us dream once more.

Here, we talk to Jaya Khidir, a 24-year-old photographer currently majoring in Fashion Media and Industries at Lasalle College of The Arts.

What drew you to your chosen field?

Initially I came from a film school background back when I was in polytechnic. Looking at the ways in which characters dress themselves (be it historical or fictional) and how they correlate to the narrative was something that intrigued me. Back in those days, we were asked to analyse these films for our assignments. That in itself uncovered a lot of underlying references such as history, psychology, fashion and pop culture that led to the outcome of how the fashion of the costume design and set design in a film turn into reality, with its own language and syntax. This fascination of how these fields of study correlate with one another into a visual language that is fashion then led to my interest into going to fashion media for university as a means to learn in depth, how one could create and contextualise images and present them as a form of speculative future that can be beautiful and yet provoke some reflection and consideration for my audience.

Who or what inspires and informs your work?

In my formative years in polytechnic (he studied film), I looked up to many filmmakers and artists such as Yasmin Ahmad, Jean-Michel Basquiat, David Lynch, Yasujiro Ozu, Johannes Vermeer, Jean-Luc Godard, Stanley Kubrick and many more. The manner in which they present their work inspired me a lot and learning “the why” gives a lot of insight as to how they, coupled with their own perspectives, arrived at a certain aesthetic and narrative. In that sense, there is some form of classicism in the way that they present their work, with the emphasis on form, simplicity, proportion, clarity of message, restrained emotion, as well as explicit appeal to the intellect, that informs my own work. I feel that the works of the late Yasmin Ahmad in particular, have shaped my identity as a creative as of recent years, because of how she manages to intersect social issues such as race, religion, economic inequality and sexuality in her works. To tackle multiple issues in a single medium is a feat in itself.

jaya khidir

Khidir was the lensman behind this image – Triptych – Between Denim, Primary Colours and 1950s Parisian Couture – for a school project.

How would you describe your aesthetic?

I try not to think about that. I try my best to respond to either my own feelings or to issues that speak to me and then piece together a visual narrative. But from what I can tell (from my own perspective) is that I alternate between an informal visual diary of objects or people isolated in a black background to help me understand a certain subject matter that I would be interested in exploring later, and my actual work which is a result of such a process.

What would you like people to know about your work?

That it is about themselves as well.

What materials, mediums and techniques are typically used in your works?

The most important thing to me is the collaboration I value very much when it comes to creating photographic work. I am very thankful and grateful to have collaborators in school, and outside of school, who are willing and enjoy working with me. I can definitively say that I’ve never shot a single roll of 35mm film in my life, that the medium I mostly work with is a digital SLR camera. This is in conjunction with Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. Sometimes, I try to go out of my comfort zone by drawing works physically, scanning them into digital form and digitally manipulating them but I don’t consider myself too good in that aspect.

What is your approach to creating new works?

The idiom, “truth is stranger than fiction” is something that I probably subconsciously use as a rule of thumb when approaching new works that are yet to be created. To always make the effort to be informed (and sometimes be entertained), be it through the news, a film, an art book or a non-fiction book. To then reflect and understand upon the issues, themes or shared truths that these mediums have explored. In real life, to be observant and thoughtful to what is going on around me. However, being informed is just not enough, as one would need to take all this information into practice – interpret, deconstruct, and translate them into one way or another (with thoughtfulness, care and effort). I then try to distill and put together these re-interpreted, deconstructed, and translated ideas into a visual image.

Favourite work to date:

A hypothetical fashion brand named Sopan (modest in the Malay language) that my classmates – Wahidah Sofia, Jane Chong, Nafhah Noor Tijany – and I worked on. I think it is my favourite work because of the themes that hit close to home and how they intersect with one another. The visual language of the work is an intersection of modesty, queerness and ethnic tradition – these are three issues minority communities face, as to how they should present themselves through dress and fashion, especially here in Singapore.

jaya khidir

Sopan (Malay for modest), a hypothetical fashion brand, is his favourite work as it represents an intersection of modesty, queerness and ethnic traditions – some issues minority communities in Singapore face with regard to their relationship with fashion and attire.

How do you think you can contribute to your field?

To contribute my part to the discourse that is still ongoing in the creative media and fashion industry, create meaningful conversations (be it on a public or private platform) with fellow creatives and identify with them, some of the best practices when it comes to translating concepts and ideas into visual form.

What is the biggest challenge facing your field?

In the field of study that I am currently in while at university (and with many fields of studies as well), that it is closely tied with consumerism and the need to make profit. I think we need to be more aware and be considerate that this in turn clearly.

Any upcoming projects you’d like to share:

As of the near future right now, I’m still studying. I hope to come up with something considerate and thought-provoking this semester as it has just started. I’ve recently worked on something small and light-hearted for Kult Gallery that is part of the ongoing REMIX festival at the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre, with regards to making a series of videos in the form of short vignettes.