Photo shoot: What happened when Prilly Tuelang and Buah zine met in DC

By Teta and Prilly

Last month, New York City-based photographer Prilly Tuelang blessed Buah zine and D.C. with her visionary talent and impeccable artistic eye. It was a whirlwind visit, but for one bright, beautiful Saturday, Prilly took amazing photos at the National Gallery of Art — while I took quick interviews — for our first in-person collaboration.

That day means a lot to me. I won’t ever be able to succinctly, eloquently explain how, but it’s a day I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Major thanks to Prilly, Ariel, Sultana, Pressman, Allie, and Lona for creating this amazing, healing, uplifting, challenging space where I learned so, so much.

Here’s a glimpse of what we created from that day!

(All photos credited to Prilly Tuelang. Follow Prilly on Instagram @prillytuelang)

Ariel (Photo credit: Prilly Tuelang)

What does your heritage mean to you?

Ariel: Because I’ve always been in the position of being Indonesian but also white, and being able to code myself in different ways, and so being hyperaware of how other people perceive me and how I presented myself, I think it taught me a lot about how to interpret the nuances of the situations that I’m in and how that exists all around me and in the systems we exist in all the time. As a result, I grew up trying to learn as much as possible and to be as critical as possible of what I was taught, of what we view as black and white, binary, fixed, or objective, and to question what that is. … I think that’s what my identity means to me, to be constantly in flux. (Instagram: @arielsantikarma | Buah zine interview)

Sultana: So I think, especially in the last six months, I’ve been on a kick of trying to figure out where I’m from because I feel like it’s a big part of who I am that I didn’t know about. And I feel like it’s real interesting because the more that I hear, especially about the women in my family, like wow. I know that generational trauma is such a thing that impacts a lot of us that we don’t talk about but … but so is the strength that they had to endure all the things that they went through. That lives in me. (Instagram: @sultana.q | Buah zine interview)

Sultana (Photo credit: Prilly Tuelang)

What was a big lesson that you’ve learned this year so far?

Allie: That it’s OK to not know. In general, but in relation to my identity, it’s OK, I don’t have to have a final answer, I don’t have to say, declare to anyone but myself that I’m Indonesian or one or the other. It’s OK to be all things, both things, and none of those identities have to define who I am, or that it has to make sense. (Instagram: @sanedoodles | Shop)

Pressman (Photo credit: Prilly Tuelang)

Pressman: I’ve always been aware of how beauty can be social currency, and can either help protect or endanger you. I have been increasingly curious and hyperaware of it recently. And increasingly hyperaware of how beauty and classism intersect. … It’s strange how surface level things can change how people interact with you and decide to treat you so drastically. (Instagram: @pribumipressman | Buah zine interview)

Ariel: I think I learned that I will always be in spaces where if I’m not being constantly doubted by somebody outside of myself that I am constantly doubting myself. So I think I’ve learned a lot about what it means to fiercely advocate for myself and fiercely advocate for my safety and my needs. And I’ve learned that I’m willing to fight for that no matter how hard it takes. And I’m willing to put myself on the front lines of my own battles to grow and to exist in ways that I want to. And to be free of violence and harassment and injustice and to learn how to liberate myself and other people in that process.

In the 17th-century Dutch art wing. From left on the couch: Pressman, Ariel, Lona, and Allie. From left behind the couch: Teta and Sultana. (Photo credit: Prilly Tuelang)

What are you currently listening to/reading/watching?

Allie (Photo credit: Prilly Tuelang)

Sultana: I was on my couch, procrastinating getting ready for a party, but I was three sips into a glass of wine and I was watching live Lizzo performances and I was just crying on my couch. … I was just like wow, she’s so inspirational. Not only is she talented, but she’s also hot! It’s so rarely that fat people, especially fat people of color, are allowed to be like hey, I’m sexy, and if you don’t agree, fuck you. She’s awesome. White people, skinny people, get away from her!

Allie: “Fleabag.” I’m not sure why. I think I just relate to the “hating myself” a lot, and that comes from a lot of places. It’s very cathartic to watch, I do recommend it. And “Killing Eve” — Sandra Oh, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, amazing. Reading, ooh, I just finished reading “I Was Their American Dream” by Malaka Gharib, and she’s Egyptian-Filipino, and that is a great read for anyone who’s mixed and wants to hear another person’s story about it.

Pressman: I’ve honestly been listening to the boygenius EP on repeat. … It’s a really beautiful record; it’s something that’s aching, and beautiful, and nuanced in the kind of heartbreak it is. … I think the song “Ketchum, ID” is the one that resonates the most for me. During the chorus, they sing this line, “I am never anywhere / Anywhere I go / When I’m home, I’m never there / Long enough to know,” especially as a mixed person, as an immigrant, that line spoke to me so deeply. … I’ve also been watching a lot of “Glow.”

Lona. Instagram: @babygamelan | Buah zine interview (Photo credit: Prilly Tuelang)

These interviews have been edited for clarity and length. 

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