Photographer Anja Niemi interviewed by Agonistica


I’ve discovered Anja Niemi only a few days ago, surfing the web, and she really impressed me.

There’s something in the composition and in the colors that really attracts me. There is an attention to details, to the objects, not to mention location and clothing. Everything is perfect, like in an oldmovie. The atmosphere is gentle but the theme is strong (sadness, death,despair) and in the irony in background is something that I find very right. The colors are well measured, without being trivial.

Suddenly, I wanted to learn more about Anja, so I decided to interview her as soon as possible, in order to discover more about her and her way of working.

Agonistica: Dear Anja, I find your photographs delicious, the composition is perfect. Have you had an artistic background before photography?

Anja: Delicious, I like that! It has always been photography, it is the one medium where I can get things to look exactly the way I want them to.


Agonistica: What kind of equipment do you use?

Anja: For Do not Disturb and Starlets I was working with two digital cameras, a Hasselblad and a smaller format SLR. That´s it. I like to keep it simple and not focus too much on the technical aspect of photography when I am shooting. So no huge production, just me a camera and my costumes.

Agonistica: Looking at “Starlets” and “Do not disturb” is clearly visible the meticulous attention you put in planning and finding locations. How did you organize the location scouting?

Anja:I do spend a lot of time looking for the perfect place, I am very patient searching through every corner of the internet. I generally do not get the opportunity to look at a location before shooting. Especially not with Do not disturb, as I just checked into the hotel rooms as a regular guest.


Agonistica: Generally, how is your team composed?

Anja: It just me. I am like a one-man band.

Agonistica: Is clearly visible that you love vintage furnishings and design. I’ve seen lots of objects and furniture from the 60s and 70s. Why do you find those years so inspiring and special?

Anja: I do tend to like things with a history. I was born in the late seventies, so it might be a bit of nostalgia, but I do like to mix all styles and decades, so they are not time specific.


Agonistica: Did you work with just one model in “Do not Disturb”?

Anja: Both series are all self portraits, I have never actually tried working with a model, I am having too much fun doing it all myself!

Agonistica: I would like to know – this is a thing I’m always asking to photographers – if the pictorial art influences your work. Do Hopper and all the American school of the 40s inspire you?

Anja: I can certainly feel a connection to Hoppers paintings, both the cinematic language and the human conditions. I grew up looking at Edward Munch’s paintings, my grandmother was a painter and she introduced me to his work when I was very young. Munch often used himself in his work and talked about the necessity of using private, subjective experience to create ‘universal’ statements and imagery. This is a large part of my work today.

Agonistica: Have you ever tough of creating some video project as a director?

Anja: I am actually working on a short film that will be in production this year. My sister is a writer and she wrote a beautiful script based on the characters from my images. But I decided not to direct it since I will be playing all the characters in the film, it would be too much to take on. We will be working with a director I know and trust, so I am really happy and exited to get started!


Agonistica: Do you do the post processing too?

Anja: I do, yes.

Agonistica: I particularly love one of your photos, the one picturing four girls dressed like spouses posing in what looks like a stage in a theater. Do you want to tell me about the story of this picture? How did you conceive and realize it?

Anja: Making this image was an interesting experience. I spent the day alone in this amazing banquet hall, dressed as a cross between a showgirl and a bride. I have never been either, but the combination felt natural. Through out the day I tried to get into what both characters would feel like, but at some point I think I forgot who was who, and they became the same thing. I was like a peacock showing off my feathers.The-Receptionist1


Agonistica: I think that cinema too is a source of inspiration for you. What movies should a young photographer absolutely watch?

Anja: A few favorites are, Ingmar Bergman’s Persona, PINA Wim Wender’s tribute of Pina Bausch, Blue Velvet by David Lynch and I really love the short PARTITA by Benjamin Millepied and Tim Fain.Agonistica: Many “Starlets” photographs talk about the theme of twins. I would like to deepen this theme with you.

Anja: I do often multiply myself, sometimes to look at inner conflicts or to show the contrast between what we show and who we are. We have a tendancy to cover up our flaws and decay, hiding all the ugliness of life and I try to have a bit of humor about it.


Agonistica: In June, there will be “Starlets” project exhibition at The Little Black Gallery. How will you show your work? What kind of paper and size will you choose?

Anja: The images are all C-prints, mainly 50cmx70cm, with one main large image 70cmx100cm and then I do the series as a whole with all 14 images in 20cmx28cm.

Agonistica: How important are social networks in your work? Do you use Facebook, Behance or other networks, rather than the traditional channels, for your promotion?

Anja: I do have a facebook page, but mostly promotion is done through my gallery in the more traditional way.

Starlets by Anja Niemi is at The Little Black Gallery London frmo 4-29 June 2013.


© Agonistica 2013. All Rights Reserved.