This #Pride, we were truly proud to showcase the incredible array of talented LGBTQIA+ creators on our platform and beyond, including Elizabeth Wirija.
Elizabeth “Eli” Wirija is a photographer and director born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia and currently based in New York. Pointing their lens in the direction of unapologetic truth and beauty, they are known for their keen ability to document and create rarefied worlds.
Wirija picked up their first camera at age 15. After obtaining a B.F.A from School of Visual Arts, the graphic design major started freelancing for ad agencies but found photography more liberating and restorative.
“At first, it was more nature and landscape-based, but I found that my true joy is photographing portraits. I always feel very grateful when someone trusts me to photograph them as it is a vulnerable process,” they told American Influencer Council.
Wirija documents narratives that inspire others and make the viewer feel something genuine, carrying a new story in every frame. Their work spans different avenues of the industry, from editorial, to documentary and commercial. Most recently, they photographed and directed a Pride campaign with Bob the Drag Queen for Coach.
Other clients include Nike, Vice, Adidas Originals, WNBA, Atlantic Records, Microsoft, SSENSE, ASOS, Make Up For Ever and Barney’s New York. Their work has been published in British Vogue, Billboard, Vanity Fair, FADER, Refinery29, Fast Company, Paper, and Nylon.
You can check out their latest projects on Creatively here.
Meet Indonesian director and photographer, Elizabeth Wirija.
What is the first creative project you remember?
Drawing whatever I imagined and coloring outside the lines. I used to draw on the walls and I would get in trouble. When I first picked up a camera, I was mesmerized. I remember vividly observing the world with a new set of eyes. When I was 14, I had a friend in high school who was making music at the time and creating bootleg CDs with his music on it, so we decided to make an album cover where we would print it out at the recreation center and fold it into the plastic CD cover with a tracklist and everything. We styled him in this colorful outfit and went around school at different locations and photographed him. It was so exciting and I remember sharing tons of laughter when I look back on the images.
Describe your aesthetic in three words.
Experimental. Freedom. Fun.
A campaign for Carrots x Footlocker, photographed by Wirija.
What was the most fulfilling collaboration you’ve worked on?
I have had the absolute honor of working with such great talent over the years and I appreciate every single collaboration as it takes trust, energy and passion to create something magical. One of the most fulfilling collaborations I’ve worked on is a story I photographed for an up-and-coming contemporary Indonesian magazine called Pears Mag that is due to be released this summer. It was documenting individuals with “unconventional” bodies who have altered their bodies to make it feel more like home. I found it was such a vulnerable process for each person to open up to me and tell me about their experience, whether it be top surgery, hormone replacement therapy or even heavy tattoos and piercings. The power to change our physical vessel to align more with the image of our soul or how we perceive ourselves is amazing to me.
What’s one creative project that taught you something fundamental about yourself?
Each project has taught me something about myself as I continue to expand and evolve. It is a splice of my future self embedded in the work that I slowly unveil. One project this year that reminded me of something I hold dear is the Carrots x Footlocker campaign lookbook I did. I got to build this narrative of kids ruling the world where adults don’t exist. There are no rules, there is freedom to be and create. It was cool to embody this through how they decorated their rooms or even at the dinner table, being able to play with your food and make these insane food sculptures. I revere the good memories of my childhood and this solidified the idea that I need to constantly take care of my inner child because that’s where my imagination comes from. That’s where all the wild ideas are stored, and that spirit of not giving a fuck and just doing stuff because it sounds fun is the best way to approach things.
Do you think creativity is something you’re born with, or something you’re taught?
Creativity is a sense of awareness. How we as humans exist in this world is ultimately creative, if you ponder on it. In some ways, it is also a sensitivity. My sensitivity is the ability to observe what’s around me, then interpreting it through an abstract embodiment. There is an inherent baseline of creativity that lays dormant in every person, until we find forms or mediums to express it. It doesn’t have to be complicated, as the word itself means finding unconventional ways to solve dilemmas. In my mind, everyone possesses the seed of imagination, it is only a question of who will nurture it with the necessary exposure to sunlight (stimuli) and water. Some will let it stay the size of a sapling while others will take care of it sweetly until it blooms.
Wirija captured this image of model Symone Lu for Vogue.
What’s the last dream you had?
The last one was kissing my crush (aha) and holding hands in a dimension that was so beautiful, it’s really difficult to explain. Although not the last dream I had, another one that is always implanted in my cognition is the time I lucid dreamed and was flying over a city that is a mix of old Manhattan and a new world. The grid system was very apparent; I didn’t have to avoid any buildings in the way because I had a way of passing through like I was a transparent spirit. The feeling that flying gave me was the highest form of freedom, I felt so detached to the physical with no worries holding me down–just the wind blowing in my face and this overwhelming emotion of lightlessness.
An editorial moment captured by Wirija.
One hundred years from now, what do you hope people write about your work?
I’ll be down to come back as a hologram once every other 100 years for a short 10 minute visit to communicate and connect with the new generation and project some of my life’s work. I hope that people can take a moment to stay in their present and appreciate my art, wonder at the beauty, and initiate some joy.
I don’t need my art to immortalize me anymore, I used to desire it strongly but to me, after the realization that energy can never be destroyed, I’m more focused on how I make people feel in this current realm more than anything.
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