Interview by Vassilios Nicolaos Vitsilogiannis
I have decided to take her bio directly from her website without any tweaks once it is well-written and explainatory about the life of this great and vibrant personality.
With her signature ICONBOOTH installation, world-renowned Dubai-based photographer, visual artist, and creative director Marta Lamovsek, captures the exuberance of Middle Eastern street life in the Emirates. The Central Saint Martins – University of Arts London alumnae works with photography, art direction, installation, film, and collage to celebrate the unrivaled grace of human vulnerability in Dubai’s most diverse locales. Marta’s mantra:
“It can be uncomfortable yet at the same time beautiful to connect with strangers.”
From her native Ljubljana to London’s high street, the self-taught Slovenian-born creative has worked with the world’s best for 20 years and has an extensive background in print publication. Her portfolio includes more than 70 titles, VICE UK, British Vogue, i-D Magazine, The Guardian UK, Le Monde France among them.
Marta has also collaborated on iconic visual art for book and album covers, in addition to her very first book, retrospective take on photography. Marta has also collaborated with prestigious fashion houses, Burberry, Dior, Tom Ford, as well as high-profile celebrities like Will Smith. Dame Vivienne Westwood, the doyenne of British fashion, so admired the ailurophile’s work that she became a regular client.
The 2010 UK’s 15 Most Talented Emerging Artist Award “Rising Star” nominee has also held installations at Art Dubai 2017 and 2018, group shows and POP-UPs in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and a solo exhibition at Dubai Design District’s 2017 Blue Cave Urban Festival. Her most prominent pieces are currently on exhibit at the Alserkal Cultural Foundation in Al Bastakya, Dubai’s oldest standing neighborhood.
No matter the subject, Marta’s deep-rooted passion for life, cultural diversity—and cats—seeks to masterfully weave the beauty of soul and mastery of craft into an entirely new space for urban contemporary art. One that makes everyone a superstar… an icon.
How did your background have affected you to follow your heart for the photography?
I grew up in Yugoslavia, the Socialist Republic Slovenia, at the time of my early childhood freedom of expression was not something I would remember being highly encouraged. There was a lot of “shhhh” hearing back then. I do remember a fair display of me being eccentric in early teens-having a half shaved head in the village-was “not appropriate” for a girl. I think this influenced me, I always believed I should do whatever my heart desired even though I didn’t know exactly what I really desired for a very long time. My childhood was not filled with lots of artistry moments, we lived by the forest and river and there was not much going on, except for watching birds, playing with cats and fishing with my dad. My parents were keen amateur photographers yet at the time I wasn’t interested in picking up the camera at all. I still don’t know what part of my background was essential for my ‘photographer’ to come out of the closet: I remember an early childhood period, I was drawing with colour pencils the different female characters, from super glam women, to masculine tomboy girls, I have no idea how this types of woman lived in my imagination (now thinking of it, it gives me a dejavu of RuPaul Drag Race characters)-but I’d make them while isolating myself (DIY) on the attic of my parents’ house. Then, building my own treehouse in a nearby forest, where I’ll be collecting shiny stones and materials, the fascination over Twin Peaks on television when I was 14 years old, all this happened and I think it mattered on a grand-scale of events.
Your studies in economics were a different field of this at the present time. Why you dropped your major and switched to the photography field?
I dropped something that was a decision made in a temporary sleepwalking insanity-I have never loathed anything more than studying economics and financial studies. This was the far-out as I ever was in regards with my purpose in life. But really, at 18 I hadn’t had a clue what I was supposed to do in my life. I woke up from the “clueless nightmare” a couple of years later at the age of 22, when I started with the love affair of my life: photography. It was in one single serendipitous moment when I saw a photograph on the wall of the coffee shop that I awakened and recognised: THIS MAKES ME FEEL ALIVE. I got my camera a week after and in a matter of months I was publishing photographs in a music magazine. I am still grateful to that day, the day I was able to catch that incredible important moment – and believe it or not, it happened in a split second, I saw the photograph framed in the bar, and it clicked: I received the message from God.
What was your exposure to photography before your studies?
A bit of Helmut Newton and Guy Bourdin in the public library and some photography exhibitions but mostly photographs of pop culture idols, there was the rising Madonna. Her in the 80s and 90s-Everything!
Where does all this experience lead to?
My self-expression was first explored through documentary candid style black and white portraits of my friends, I was part of the Ljubljana’s Bohemian Youth Culture, later on I aimed to be shooting fashion photographs which trough styled models and depicted locations allowed me to be telling stories I was passionate about and importantly raising emotions, all this both influences made me to later on become expressing myself through styled black and white portraits which I’ve made around at time and after postgraduate studies at Central Saint Martins College of Art.
Who were your early influences?
My most important influence in the black and white phase was Helmut Newton, but in terms of mood and storytelling my idol was David Lynch.
Tell us about your life and work in London.
London had some highlights, I will never forget walking from the set of Pinewood Studios and Johnny Depp dressed as Jack Sparrow sitting alone in front of his trailer smiled at me and said “Hi” and me saying ‘hi’ back and walked past him while we were leaving the set of me being the 5th assistant for the Pirates of Caribbean promo shot crew there, shooting for Vivienne Westwood look-book and backstage where I first met her and despite saying something embarrassingly cliché to her, she had given me a compliment on my looks. London was everything between absolutely fabulous and being a starving artist. It was after Central St. Martins trying to live as an artist but the struggle was real, I found myself always shooting guerilla style on lots of forbidden (and morbid) locations. My final photographic portrait series Rocks Are Melting which landed me an Emerging Artist Award at Central Saint Martins was entirely shoot on different kinds of cemeteries in London. It was my first DIY project, and the love affair began…
What was your first big break to shoot for big magazine titles?
My first fashion magazine cover was not big but it was significant, it was back in 2009, I remember I was discovered online and invited to submit a fashion story to W25Magazine, an fairly unknown New York e-magazine. I submitted the just shoot fashion story “Widows & Soldiers”, and when they published it, I realised they have put my photograph ON THE COVER. This was, the biggest recognition I have received till then (I was self-taught and it was before St. Martins and it meant a lot), I was proud especially because I just started shooting fashion: the cover of the magazine was a model (art directed as a widow) very Marlene Deitrich looking, long fake lashes with a black tissue wiping her tears. Have I mentioned that I always loved to portray drama?
Have you moved into fashion by photographing for editorial?
My very first shoot was shooting editorial for a friend who was a very talented fashion designer. Later on, those images were in Portfolio that helped me to be accepted to St. Martins College of Art.
Over the years, did you ever encounter famous people who were very difficult to shoot?
I have shot a couple of celebrities, I would almost say: the bigger the celebrity, the easier the shoot.
How do you find shooting landscapes compared to shooting people?
I admire landscape photographs that can move me, from legends such as Ansel Adams and Sebastiao Salgado. You see, you can’t direct the landscape, it’s the pure art of seeing. You are just an observer. With people you are able to influence, interact, and control what part of a person’s character you want to portray. I do also believe that portraits are unconscious self portraits.
How do you define art?
Art is when someone is serving realness-his pure heart and soul out to the world with a bit of a technique personal to them. True art must change our perception, challenge our beliefs and make us ask questions but I personally also love all of this wrapped into a good looking package.
Did you work with people who projected negativity and you had had to stop the whole photoshoot?
It’s rare because I am normally able to prevent the shooting with this kind of individuals even take place, or if it does, I tend to transcend and transform the negativity into love. However, I am just a human, and not always my cup of patience and compassion is full and once or twice the person has been asked to leave the sacred portraiture chair or else someone could get punched in the face.
You are a great fan of still picture, but are you a great fan of motion picture?
My ultimate dream, in a Universe where this wouldn’t accompany dealing with a huge crew and long processes of pre-production and post production, I would be a filmmaker. Truth is, I have not been gifted with this sort of patience or enough big desire. The love affair of movie making has been brought to me by David Lynch’s cult TV show Twin Peaks in 1990, following the classics of his movies Mulholland Drive, Lost Highway and Blue Velvet. There’s something magical in some of those scenes, they are pure art and they have remain engraved in my consciousness forever.
What’s your approach to society and people?
I believe every single person can teach us something about the world and about ourselves. I mean it when I say: Every-Single-Person. Therefore, I believe everyone is relevant and should be treated with kindness and respect. I am religiously following this rule, and the benefits are: it brings me more inner peace, a feeling of unity and true joy and happiness even on an otherwise shitty day. I suggest everyone try it out without exception. Practicing kindness and compassion towards every single person in our society is good going to massively change your happiness levels and bring more charm to your character.
Do you love animals?
I adore animals, but specifically I have a very special connection to cats-I speak to them every time I see one. No exceptions. It’s normal for me to have many times-a-day “conversation” with my boy cat named Chewy and he will be responding to all of my questions and statements with ‘meow’. Trust me, it’s happening.
Are you an advocate of the natural way of living?
Yes, I love to buy everything that says ‘organic’ but let’s not be fooling anyone: I do not recycle properly, and I don’t produce any of homemade cleaning products. For me, natural living encompasses more “life by the nature and simple lifestyle”, I do myself a morning tonic (one grapefruit, one lemon, spoon of grinded ginger and spoon of an apple cider vinegar). I do love cooking from scratch, eat lots of veggies and I do avoid processed food. That said, again, I am a countryside girl who needs daily walks in the nature (living by the beach makes me sane), I would easily live in a comfortable sized van for a couple of months.
How would you envision yourself in a period of 10 years?
A graceful woman which embodies inner peace, sparkling eyes, infectious smile, continuously purpose driven, beautifully bruised, wise and evolved, being of massive service to society and humanity.
Have you thought of traveling around the world, changing places frequently, photographing people the same way you do it at the moment?
Travelling the world, being inspired by different cultures and growing as I go, yes I think of it and I was about to start my journey full on this year, but some travels had to be postponed-waiting for unpredictable incidents to stop in order to continue the dream!
What’s the ideal photograph for you?
The one that changes your life for you to find why you are here!
Do you have any tips for an aspiring photographer who’s picking up a camera for the first time?
Ask yourself questions like: what do you really really really care for? What do I want to say with my photographs? Why do I need my voice to be heard? Plus, most importantly: never listen to anyone who says you need to be doing what will bring you money, understand the difference between the mind clutter, current trends, financial needs and INTUITION. Intuition is guiding you to your life’s purpose, all the rest is more or less bollocks. Trust that you, you have a unique point of view about the world. Show the world that!
Facebook: Marta Lamovsek