A common saying in Indonesia — “ kalau jodoh, mukanya mirip” — implies that your significant other will most likely be your soulmate if your faces show similar features.This notion is by no means exclusive to Indonesia alone. In fact, scientific research has shown that couples began to resemble one another the longer they have been together.
Based on this observation, Indonesian photographer Christina Phan, or Yaya, as she is usually referred to, has created a photo series that is now exhibited in her first solo exhibition called “Eksposisi Satu,” currently on display at Marsio Fine Art Gallery in Menteng until Friday.
“I like to see little things, for instance, I find it very interesting how each member of a family can have the same-shaped mouth; or how the gestures of a mother and a daughter can be so similar,” she said.
“When it comes to love, people often say that we are looking for someone who is not too different from ourselves, somebody who is compatible,” Yaya added.
The scientific side supports the argument that there is an adjustment process among couples that reflect in their faces, she explained.
For her exhibition, Yaya took portraits of 26 couples; she then merged the two halves of their faces to become one in a montage.
The results were surprising: in some cases, the couples look so alike that it is almost eerie. Sure, the male half of the face may have stubble, while the female side has trimmed eyebrows but the essence, sometimes maybe just the look in their eyes, is the same — those of soulmates.
It is especially interesting that an interracial couple — an Indonesian man from Malang and his French wife — have the exact same nose, jawline and teeth.
“It’s amazing how two people from such different parts of the world can look so alike. When I was working on the project and put together the faces, I sometimes was almost scared because they looked so similar,” Yaya said.
Some of the couples are good friends of hers while others have been references. The process of taking photos was a great experience for her, she says.
“I could see firsthand how different couples interact with each other,” Yaya explained. “I also hope that for the couples, this project was a good reflection on themselves, as they had to revisit the theme of soulmates. When they saw the results, many of them were surprised too at how similar they actually looked.”
It took Yaya quite some time to reach this point in life. As a young girl, she used to spend hours drawing, paying attention to the smallest details in her pictures.
Years later, she caught a TV show that highlighted the behind-the-scenes work of a movie — and she was hooked.
“I thought, that this is what I wanted to do; I never wanted to become a film director, but the director of photography,” she said. “I was amazed by what they do: they decide on the composition of a scene, the angle, the color, the lighting, they know how to set the mood.”
Although she was keen to learn more about film and art, Yaya studied marketing at Atma Jaya University, following her parents’ wishes.
“At that time, photography was not a well-developed field yet, so my parents didn’t allow me to follow my passion,” she recalled. “My dad was a businessman, and he was worried that I couldn’t earn any money if I was to follow the wrong path.”
But her heart wasn’t in it. Whenever she could, Yaya dedicated her free time volunteering at film festivals, in order to set up a network for herself. At the same time, at Atma Jaya, she enrolled in a photography class.
“There wasn’t any drama class, so I took photography instead because it was the closest to what I wanted,” she said.
It wasn’t exactly filmmaking, but it seemed that Yaya had found her true calling.
“While in films, the picture is always moving, in photography we have to capture one single moment, and the picture speaks for itself. In a movie, a message is conveyed through a scene.”
After she had learned the basics and went photo hunting throughout the whole city, Yaya found herself most interested in shooting people, but it was still only a hobby.
Following graduation from university, she first worked as a radio reporter and producer, and later, as photographer for several magazines, mainly for fashion spreads. However, a sense of restlessness and her free-spirited nature didn’t allow Yaya to stay for a long time at the same place — except the last magazine where she worked, DestinAsian, for whom she was as a photographer for six years.
“I learned a lot there,” she said, but in the end, she decided strike out as a freelancer. It was her first dream come true, she said, while the second one was to have a solo exhibition.
She was part of several group exhibitions before, including one in November 2011 titled “Mata Perempuan” (The Eyes of Women), that showcased the works of women photographers and was curated by Firman Ichsan, who Yaya names as one of her most important mentors.
“He taught me that in my work, I have to be honest and be able to open up,” she said. “The energy you are feeling at the time you are doing a project needs to be visible in your work.”
It wasn’t easy for her at first to lay bare her soul in her photographs, but in the end, she said, it helped her a great deal — for “Mata Perempuan,” she contributed a series of photographs that showed herself crying; a direct result of a bad breakup.
Her first solo exhibition also stays true to this concept of honesty.
“I haven’t found my soulmate yet, but I hope I will someday, so I guess this exhibition expresses this wish of mine,” she said.
As curator, Firman expressed his admiration for Yaya’s sharp observation skills when it comes to her surroundings.
“[It is] a sensitivity that always urges her, despite her young age, to bring to the surface the important things we tend to overlook,” he said. “One the other hand, Yaya never allows herself to be arrested by one way of presentation. She is continuously looking for the right way to represent her work and self-expression; she is an art photographer that is free and knows no inhibition when she’s at work, creative and consistently exploring.”
The exhibition opened on Jan. 24, which was her birthday — she thought it was the perfect present.Eksposisi SatuThrough Feb. 7; Artist Talk Feb. 6 at 6 p.m.Marsio Fine Art GalleryJl. Cianjur No. 17Menteng, Central JakartaTel. 0878 8080 0660