Melissa Schriek

ARTIST

Photography by

MELISSA SCHRIEK

Interview by

SARA LORUSSO

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What inspires/drives you every day? Is there anything in particular that gave you the strength to never give up?

I actually think that inspiration is a powerful drive to make work. When I feel inspired, it often feel like I absolutely have to make the work that is in my mind. I just have to tell that story or make that image. That feeling gives me a lot of strength, it can feel like an unstoppable force. As long as I can find inspiration or have those stories that I want to tell, I know I will not give up. But I also think it is important to talk about that ‘not giving up’ does not mean that you have to be inspired or make work everyday. I feel like that mindset is often untenable as off-days are part of life. Personally I found out which things I like to do when I want to find inspiration again but it is not coming as easily, such as: walking through the city, visiting a museum, reading, doing yoga etc.

 

In your images there are urban elements, connection between people and dance. How much are all these elements connected with your personal life?

I think that all subjects I work with relate to me in specific ways. They are things I am curious about or wonder about. Things I find important to show and research. My connection with the city is one that naturally came to me. I live in a city now, after growing up in a small(ish) town. I observed the city when I just moved there because I was not used to live in a place where so many people come together and share public space with each other. It fascinated me instantly; how can so many people live so close to each other, but still have such disconnect to each other? That was my first reason to explore the city: to explore the human connections that it conveys in the broadest sense.

When I was younger, I danced. But when I grew older, I started focusing completely on photography and lost the dance-part of myself. Intuitively this came back into my work. I am not a dancer anymore but I still see and feel things in a very physical way. And the body is a very expressive and suggestive way to tell a story. It fits with how I express myself and want to create work. I feel like all these elements intuitively came into my work so it feels very natural.

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Are the colors in your images always very balanced, is the composition natural or do you style your subjects?

My work is always combination of observing and staging. That means that

some elements are staged but others are improvised or coincidences. I find it very important to make sure to be open for things happening on the spot that I did not prepare for. I think it comes naturally with working in the city, which is ever-changing. I also want the people I photograph to have the freedom to make their own interpretations so I give them the outlines of what I want, but carefully make sure they can also put themselves in it. In the end, I hope my work is viewed as something between documenting and staging, a strange and mysterious in-between world, and I feel it is a good sign when people are not sure how far an image is staged.

What is the link between your subjects? Do they always know each other or are they sometimes even strangers?

I often photograph people who are strangers to me as I am interested in getting to know new people and I find it more difficult to photograph people who are close to me.
Strangers, and their stories inspire me endlessly and photographing someone you just met is very dynamic in many ways. For the work ODE all the women in the photos are each others best friends so naturally they are very known to each other. But many times they were strangers to me so that leads to me being able to observe them in a neutral way. I like to have the chance to have such a free and unbiased view of someone. But it depends very much on the project how I approach the people I want to photograph and it is always changing!

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The intent of our magazine is to show that the bond among women is powerful, pure and we are capable of working together and creating incredible things. (unlike what society has always led us to believe).

In the ''ODE project: an exploration of the dynamics of female friendship'' you talk about the bond between women.

How important do you think mutual support is in the life of women?

I grew up in a household with only women, except for my father, so I have always been very aware and used to the dynamic between women. And I have admired it endlessly throughout my life. I think women are so strong in holding themselves and each other up. I often feel that I have an unconditional bond with other women, even when I don’t know them, I will keep an eye out for them. Because I feel like we are in this together. That is why I started ODE. I felt that there was not a lot of good and honest representation of friendship between women. Because often female friendship is shown in a hostile, toxic way (think: mean girls) where friends are more like enemies. That is not my experience and I want to show the beauty of female friendship, create a new narrative surrounding this important relationship without losing honesty. So that why I called the

work ODE, to give a literal ode to all women out there and to female togetherness in all forms.