The Surreal World of Jakarta Malls: A Photo Essay

Jakarta malls are strange places. They’re islands of air conditioning in a town of near-slums. They’re the only thing to do if you have any money in this deeply unequal town. They have laughing Santas and Starbucks and skin whitening cream. I find them deeply disturbing.

24 Starbucks

At Christmas, all the malls had decorations in them. It was a big thing. Little Muslim children lined up to sit on Santa’s lap. Whenever I asked, people shrugged and told me that Christmas wasn’t really about religion in Jakarta.

Jakarta Santa

On Friday nights, the malls are packed. The fashionable kids, speaking a mixture of English and Indonesian, flood the white marble floors. The malls have very loud music, and sometimes DJs.

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Images Before and After Death

Before Death

I have recently run across an extraordinary project by photographers Walter Schels and Beate Lakotta. They took portraits of 11 people shortly before and shortly after dying. The photographs were displayed at the Wellcome Collection in London this spring.

I think this is wonderful, and one of the reasons I think it is wonderful is that there is really no more I care to say about it. There is nothing at all I can add to it.

Visit the online version of the exhibition.