Conceptual Photographer Mariell Amélie
Norwegian conceptual photographer Mariell Amélie grew up in Andøya, a small rural island above the Arctic Circle, but has now relocated and based herself in London. But even though she left her hometown she regularly goes back for visits to draw inspiration for her future projects. Mariell’s work, described as eerie and rich of emotions, seeks the connections between nature and man. Her surreal photographs immediately caught our eye.
Tell us about life growing up in Andøya.
Growing up in a rural island is bittersweet. You don’t comprehend the importance and beauty of your surroundings until you grow older and move away. Growing up I always thought Andøya was the most boring and uninspiring place on earth and dreamt of living in a city, that kind of place I would watch on films.
Saying that, I would always be out running around in nature and subconsciously appreciating my landscape.
A normal day in my childhood as an only child would involve being woke up by my parents at 7am who would wrap me up in a wool blanket and place me in front of the kids morning TV program and put a slice of bread with cheese and a glass of orange juice in front of me. I would sit there paralysed for half an hour before I would go in to the bathroom and fall asleep again under the bathroom rug on top of the heated floor tiles. My best attempt of replicating my cats lifestyle.
I look back at school as being a fun place to hang out with my friends. I really appreciate this as I don’t think it’s always the case when you hear about how people remember school days.
After school I would hang out with my best friend Majken. We would race around on our pedal bikes pretending to be bike police or climb mountains, which I never told my parents about because they would be terrified Id hurt myself.
As I entered my teens and technology started making its way in to my life I discovered Photoshop on the 25GB computer that my dad built. This inspired me to start taking shitty photos with my webcam to play around with so that I could understand the magic of Photoshop. This eventually turned in to the reason I started to photograph nature and also myself in nature.
With Internet we also got the online chatting programs like mIRC. This allowed me and my friends to connect with people in neighbouring islands which made it an incredibly exciting time as I felt like there was a whole word out there waiting for me.
As for big memories of my childhood I always refer to fishing trips with my dad where we would play with wild rabbits, build toilets out of twigs, make flutes out of willow trees, pick berries, catch fish and marinate them in flour, salt and pepper before throwing them on the bonfire and waking up in the morning by the sound of my dad coffee boiling over open flames. My mom isn’t big on camping so while me and my dad was away she would be preparing a week of amazing dinners and making the house smell like Krystall Grønnsåpe (which is the soap I have smelt most in my upbringing) for our return.
My parents were very good at activating me with drawing, building Lego and generally teaching me how to entertain myself. Every night before bed they would take turns reading for me until I fell asleep. I love my parents for this.
As a final note on life growing up in Andøya; it was a wholesome and slow experience where I had all the time in the world for everything that came my way. I hope this is something I will always have with me, to make time for the little things as well as the big things in life.
When and why did you decide to move to London?
When I was 16 I decided to move to the neighbouring island, it was bigger and considered a city. I wanted to express my feeling of being different through wearing curtains and bowling shoes, throwing on all colours I could possibly fit in to one attire.
One year in to my music and theatre studies I realised my passion was in design and aesthetics and not with music, so I changed my course to media and communication which then led me to my first full-time job three years after in Oslo.
I worked for Aftenposten, which is the equivalent of The Guardian in Norway, for two years and quickly realised I had so much to learn about the world, so much I wouldn’t be able to soak up in my homeland and I decided to move to London to broaden my horizons and throw myself in to the unknown.
How did you start your career in photography?
As explained above, I started sparking an interest in photography through playing around with webcam pictures in Photoshop. I then advanced to nature and then myself in nature. We had a weekly analogue photography class in Media & Communication but I’m not sure what I picked up from that. Most of my experience is coming from experimenting and not being scared of sharing unfinished work. I obviously picked up quite a lot from working in the newspaper and working with colour correction for 8 hours every day for two years. I studied fashion photography in my first year in London but wasn’t massively impressed with that course either and that’s when I went freelance for the first time at the same time as working part time in a pub.
One thing led to another and I quite accidentally ended up in a very niche market, interior photography and art documentation, and I am extremely lucky to have manage to make a good living out of my passion.
What equipment do you use?
Since day one I never focused too much on my equipment and I always wanted the simplest setup as possible, which has led me to working solely with a Canon 5DSR with a 24-70mm 2.8 and a monfrotto tripod. I also have a 40mm pancake lens that I use for my personal travels.
I really want to invest in an analogue medium format camera like Mamiya 7 at some point, but I am patiently waiting for that time in my life where I can justify spending that kind of money and time on it.
Your images are fantastic! What are you inspired by?
Thank you! My inspiration comes mostly from being bored and from people watching. People who are creatures of habits really fascinate me.
I will write down things I see and let it brew for a bit. I also love looking at family pictures from the 60s and 70s. Old houses are also, obviously, a huge inspiration for me. There is something about a space that has been left to age in a world that moves further and further away from the context in once used to be.
What has been your biggest achievement career wise so far?
I never considered my photography as a possible career, so I would say it was quite an achievement when I started working internationally (everywhere from Morocco to Rio to New York) with well-established businesses documenting interior, architecture and artwork.
Is there anyone or anything you would love to take pictures of?
I love people who are living life as if change of time never affected them. You know when you can tell that the last time a person purchased a new pair of eye classes was in the 70s. These types also seem to often be creatures of habits and that’s the type of character I get extremely inspired by. Most people are so caught up in the struggle of always being in with the current trends so it feels somewhat relaxing and grounding to observe those who decided to be oblivious about the rest of the world moving on.
What are you passionate about besides photography?
I’m passionate about finding potential in the space and people I surround myself with.
Sewing, making and rearranging things to improve or create. Its like a constant treasure hunt and it keeps life exciting every day.
I have started a business with my friends that we call Benk + Bo, and it is essentially a space where people can come and chill out, drink amazing coffee, eat home made quality food as well as do yoga, throw events and so on. I guess this is a part of my passion too; allowing other people to find their passion by creating a welcoming warm environment.
Which lesson has been the hardest to learn?
It has been hard to see that people in the city doesn’t actually care about each other in the way that you would in a small town. This goes for both my personal life and my work-life.
Has social media given a positive influence on your work as a photographer?
Yes for sure. I signed up to Flickr back in the days when that was a thing. I think that was around 2004. It seemed to be a group of people from across the world that all had the same interests and missions with this platform. I would use it to get feedback, both positive and negative, to my photography back then. It definitely felt like a supportive community and it made me confident enough to believe in my work.
How does a typical weekend in Andøya look like?
Whenever I go to Andøya my days merge in to each other and there is no such thing as weekend and weekdays. A typical day will look like this:
9am I will be woken up by my dad who tells me my mom has prepared the breakfast table. There will be a table, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, full of freshly baked breads of all sorts, home made jams and everything that makes you feel like you’re in some boutique hotel somewhere.
After a long breakfast with my parents we will all do our own things for a couple of hours before we hit the mountain for a hike. Then it’s on to the next meal.
The afternoon will be spent either seeing friends or visiting family or taking a walk on the beach.
Going home is always an absolute treat for the mind.
What should we see and do when visiting Andøya?
Make sure to go on some mountain hikes. Spend all the time you can out in nature!
Speak to locals and ask them for advice, everyone is so friendly and will be more than happy to show you directions or probably even invite you in for coffee.
Take time to drive around the whole island, and bring a tent. You can camp anywhere you would like.
Who or what is your greatest love?
My greatest love is the ocean.
To see more of Mariell´s work go to www.mariellamelie.com