Mira Loew is a London based photographer who studied Fashion Photography at London College of Fashion (2009) and her MA in Image and Communication at Goldsmiths, University of London (2011). Her work predominantly explores the human body focusing on the correlations between performance and the photographic medium.
Daniel Lippitsch: Could you please tell me about your last or current projects you are working on, especially about the Faceless Series?
Mira Loew: I hardly ever consider my works as finished. They tend to be ongoing projects. The Positionings 2012/2013 book is a project I worked on for about two years and finished recently. But now I am working on the Positionings 2014/2015, so it is a finished project as well as an ongoing one. The elephant series is another series i am currently working on.
DL: Why is it called Elephants?
ML: Its a working title. The project emerges from the English saying “the elephant is in the room”, describing the obvious truths and tabus we choose to ignore and to not talk about. I think everybody has their elephants, the traumas that we carry around with us and which manifest themselves in the physicality of our movements and the way we perceive, navigate, and position our bodies in the world.
Abby McKenzie: This phrase seems to suggest a playful or comic way of dealing with these“traumas”. Is that playfulness intentional?
ML: Yes of course, I think we should all be a bit more playful with the elephants.
DL: Do you often start your series from a confrontation with the body?
ML: Generally yes. Body/space and movement are basically the starting points for everything.
DL: Why is that?
ML: I understand human beings as body-mind entities, as embodied minds and believe every experience is also a bodily experience which leads to a fascination with how much we communicate through the medium of our body, by the means of gestures, mimic, posture. This is also partly why I prefer to hide the faces of my subjects. I want to invite the viewers to read my images differently, to look at the other means we communicate and express ideas, values, identity and so on.
DL: That is a fascinating point, especially if we think about fashion where motion and bodies create a whole new perception of the pieces themselves and changing/objectifying the whole personal experience by not showing the faces. Would you distinguish between art and fashion photography? Because basically you are working in both aren’t you?
ML: No, technically I don’t. I studied fashion photography but I don’t take fashion pictures. Even the photographs that maybe look like fashion images don’t sell fashion. The depicted garments are pieces I find, I make or borrow and I usually don’t work with stylists. I know that my work sometimes seems to have a fashion related context and I have been struggling with that a bit, how to navigate and position that in a fine art context. But in the end I just decided not to label my work.
DL: So you end up with a connection to fashion nevertheless because garments signal an important part in the works although you take every commercial aspect of fashion out of them.
ML: A major “problem” when working with the human body is that either you work with the naked or the dressed body. The naked body comes with all sort of connotations, cultural meanings and references. If dress the bodies, you need to think about fashion. Whatever the body does or doesn’t wear communicates a lot. I try to keep the fashion as simple as possible because I don’t want to overload the images with cultural meaning and value. The clothing should take a very passive role so that it becomes something you don’t necessarily notice or something that adds forms and shape and responds to the content of the image more than artifically charging it with meaning.
DL: How come you focus mainly on the female body?
ML: Most of my works are essentially self portraits. They are about my specific experience of inhabiting the world through a female body.
DL: Would you say that you could achieve a similar aesthetic with the male body?
ML: I guess it would be different because it wouldn’t be out of my own experience. I am planning to work with a male dancer for my next project, lets see how that goes.
AM: Bearing in mind what you were saying about how the body conveys emotion, it is interesting that you are planning to work with dancers. Is this an attempt to explore the juxtaposition between highly trained bodies and unconscious movement?
ML: I have been collaborating with dancers and movement artists for years now. In the beginning I was particularly interested in how movement artists find their own movement language, where movement comes from. Music, or memory, different improvisation techniques and so forth. Over the years I have developed a personal and artistic exchange with some movement artists and I find it fascinating to see, particularly when they have undergone traditional ballet training, how they have to break that to find their intuitive, intrinsic movement language again.
AM: Do you think about the body more as your subject or medium?
ML: I would say both. That’s why I work with photography and performance or performative photography. Because I am particularly interested in that collaborative space between performative and representative artistic disciplines.
DL: How did you get into working with film and video?
ML: I have always been interested in moving image and it was part of most of my studies. Furthermore, my partner David Altweger/ Sagberg is a video artist with whom I collaborate in the form of video projects. For example the music video GO VISIBLE for KELPE was a collaboration we did together.
DL: Do you have a different approach working in video compared to photography?
ML: Narratives are constructed differently in video. I work with series in photography too but I usually don’t set up a whole series as there is usually a specific picture I have in mind and in the end it will be series that comes out of that. This doesn’t apply to video where you have to plan a whole series of images relating to each other from the beginning. There is also much more post-production involved that makes the working process completely different and you end up in front of the computer for much longer.
DL: Do you make extensive use of post-production in you photography?
ML: Yes, but not necessarily how you would imagine. You can hardly avoid post-production when you shoot digitally. However, for example the Faceless Series was hardly retouched afterwards. The plant in FACELESS DARK was actually there and so on. My post-production focuses more on the surface, the photographic texture, combining various techiniques and photographic materials. Whenever I can I work with analogue techniques. 35Mm, medium format, polaroid. For me, post-production in most cases, digital and analgue is more like developing new process combining different mediums.
DL: Is there any kind of “dream” project you want to undertake?
ML: I am starting to work with collages, spacial collages, photographic collages. At the moment I place images in spaces, with a particular focus on corners which I then rearrange through photography. I also love analogue colour printing in the darkroom and want to apply the aesthetics of test stripes and so on in my collage work. Another project I am particularly excited about is an artist research project looking at dance and movement notation systems. The notion of developing sign languages for dance has fascinated me for a while now and I want to incorporate this research into the elephant project.
DL: What exhibitions are next?
ML: My work will be in show at the Asia Contemporary Art Fair in Hong Kong with Decorazon Gallery. In Vienna there’s an upcoming exhibtion at the Kunst Haus curated by Eikon and I will be participation at the Photobook Fair in Vienna coming up in June.
Interview by Daniel Lippitsch and Abby McKenzie