Known as a stylist, Jonathan Andy Tan’s craft also extend to all things fashion, creative direction, and photography. We met him in Pererenan, Bali to discover how the Jakarta-based fashion stylist sees regular objects with his eyes and stretches them into the irregular with his mind.
Not far from the hustle-bustle of Canggu, we found a villa surrounded by rice fields in Pererenan. It was calm, and the only sound that we can hear is the sound of nature—the wind sings while dogs gently bark. Jonathan Andy Tan or Andy stayed in one of the wooden villas. Wandering on the beach at Pantai Nyanyi, riding his rented automatic motorcycle, capturing scenery with his camera, and finally moving to the villa in Pererenan. It was another day for Andy on his latest Bali trip. He trades his working days in Jakarta for some holiday in Bali—indulging in all what the island offers. “This time, I don’t want to work… I feel blank but in a good way. I usually work hard, but this time, I just want to rest after endless work at Jakarta,” said Andy while we hang in his villa balcony, drinking lattes with almond milk from BGS. Andy felt relaxed. He wore a white t-shirt, comfortable tartan pants that he got from thrifting, sandals, and bracelets on both hands. The sun is up, and the wind keeps singing. We talk and talk as the caffeine from our coffee fuels the conversation.
Why did you want to be a fashion stylist? I read that you start it all because reading magazines such as Elle and Vogue?
Well, I wanted to be a fashion stylist since I was in junior high school. I really like clothes! I like to mix clothes and style my mom. I first get my fashion magazines from my big sister and also my mom’s salon…the place where I like to hang. After that, I subscribed to Elle Indonesia every month, the magazine that I really want to work in at that time. I started to work in 2011 as an assistant when I was in high school. Then I made my way into the fashion industry and finally be able to work for Elle in 2015!
What comes after being a fashion stylist at Elle?
I am still working as a freelance stylist until now. But honestly, I am not that into fashion styling anymore. I now dabble in photography because I like to see the whole image, not only clothes. That is why I create some photo concepts that tone down on the styling but emphasize the lighting. It’s a personal creative process. When I was in Elle, I like to style, and then it moves to the set. But now, I like the whole thing from the style, set, object, and photo. Maybe that transition came because I worked a lot with photographers. After creating a concept, sometimes our vision doesn’t meet. So, I started to learn photography to realize my own concept of photographs.
When did you actually start photographing?
About two years ago, I wanted to dabble in photography. But back then, I can’t decide what I want to learn. It is either set design or photography. But last year, my friend Tara Basro asked me to photograph her wedding in 2020. So that’s it, I guess that’s the push. I finally asked my photographer friends and finally bought a camera! After that, I started to do test shots of a fashion spread. Doing it all from styling, set design, and finally photographing it. For commercial work, I did some gigs, such as photographing a Louis Vuitton event. But there’s one gig when I did it all, from styling to finally photographing it—a photo single shoot of Yura Yunita.
What do you want to capture with photography?
My own self-exploration. Where can I go and what can I do? How far can I go? I am not afraid to fail. I capture people for fashion spreads, but I also did some street shots. In the street, everything is more spontaneous and so much fun! Capturing people and also interacting with them.
Back to styling. Do you do anything different in the way you style? Or do you just do it by the book?
First thing first, there is no such thing as bad styling. Did I do it by the book? No, in terms of styling, I take risks. I am not afraid of the results when styling. What differentiates me from the others is the way I explore in a contemporary and eclectic way. I am not afraid to style a celebrity in a tacky way with bright colors and all, as long as they are comfortable with it. I like to stretch every object, such as a model that I see in ways that still look good on them. I am not trying to be different, but I like to see a different perspective when I see and create things. But when there are clients that want to change the style I propose or if the model is uncomfortable, I am willing to change it.
When did you get all your inspiration from?
Truth be told, mostly from the internet, especially Instagram. I see what is in, I see profiles of interesting people such as photographers and models. Aside from social media, sometimes I check out runways and surf the internet for websites. I also get inspiration from strangers that I saw in real life. People passed me by, and the inspiration can come! I like the absurd. I like something real, but I stretch it into the surreal. I stay away from basic things. I like to explore…I like to stretch it all.
When it comes down to you, is it hard to style yourself?
I think not. I am not afraid to wear anything. I once wore a kain or traditional cloth that you wear to cover your lower body parts for about three months. It’s not common to wear it, but it’s actually a part of Indonesian culture! I wore it not just for fashion. It’s something that I believe in—it’s our culture. So, when fellow Indonesian ask me why I wear a kain, I just smiled at them.
Favourite places in Bali?
Ubud to chill and Canggu to hang out with friends. I also stayed at Pondok Pisang in Candidasa, it was fun.
How about activities in Bali?
Well, I like to melukat, the Balinese ritual that cleanses and purifies our body, mind, and soul by bathing in natural water. I went to Tirta Empul to do it, but I also did melukat in a more private place with a balian or priest near Ubud. Do you know what happened when the balian is trying to cleanse me? A wire suddenly comes out of my body, it stretched out of my flesh!
I currently like Manggis in Canggu. I ate a vegan spaghetti meatball there.
What do you like most about Bali?
Nature and culture. I really want to know more about the Balinese culture, I want to watch tari kecak or the fire dance so bad! I haven’t had the chance to watch it.
Jonathan Andy Tan written by Rama Indirawan photos by Jonathan Andy Tan