Dutch born Marinka Masséus states that ‘photography has always been a part of me’. Her Fine Art projects display a crafted eye able to create compelling and thought provoking images.
While those projects in themselves are worthy of numerous questions. In this juncture we focused on Marinka Masséus’ documentary photography. Travels in countries such as Namibia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, and Brazil have allowed her to build a catalogue of powerful images. Marinka Masséus’ most recent journeys into Iran and Tanzania producing an astounding collection.
Focusing on the Iranian women behind the hijab and the harrowing stories and treatment of Tanzanian albino children, Marinka Masséus conveys their stories with an innate sensitivity. While sensitivity plays its part, it is her goal to go against the formulaic images regarding her subjects which enthralls. Albino children are smiling and included. Women are defiantly free from the hijab.
It is powerful work.
Killing a person with albinism is considered to bring good luck.
Is there an image or moment that really instilled the photography passion and your eventual journey?
Photography has always been a part of me. When I was 9 my father gave me his old B&W to experiment with. At university I was always ‘the girl with the camera’. When I started to travel my passion for photography grew. It felt like breathing to me, inescapable, when I held my camera, I felt truly happy and complete. A couple of years ago I finally decided to listen to my heart. I enrolled at the Photo Academy in Amsterdam and I started to connect with working conceptually. Photography gives me the opportunity to express my feelings about topics I care deeply about.
Are there names from the photographic world (past or present) who have inspired you?
Ernst Haas really inspired me. His innovative approaches introduced me to new creative techniques which truly inspired me. There are so many awesome photographers, both in the past and in our present times.
Buddhist Psychology to photography explain the connection to photography?
I don’t think there is a causal relationship between the two but one never knows of course how everything interconnects. I do believe my Buddhist teachings have guided my path as a photographer. In a sense I have learned to observe and draw closer to my true self. I know authenticity is a word tossed around too easily these days, but intrinsic motivation and staying true to my inner beliefs and having them guide me, is extremely important to me.
‘image is indeed stronger than a 1000 words’. Explain that assertion and what can an image convey that words might find more difficult to convey?
Visuals enter the brain on a different level. They have a very direct impact on us. Their impact is also fast and inescapable. They can move us, touch us, surprise us, educate us, show us the world, show us the same world from a different perspective, give us a glimpse in other people’s realities and even into other people’s emotions. They tell a story more direct and profound than words can. Visuals are of all times and they are a truly human experience.
It states your work looks at gender inequality. As a female photographer is that still an issue and why?
My personal experience has been a positive one. In the broader arena (especially when it comes to photojournalism), women still face a lot of barriers. It is important to have a balanced pool of photographers-in regard to gender and race. Just like written journalism, photography translates the world to us all. The white middle-aged male’s perspective is heavily over-represented. It is important to have a myriad of views represented and not just one perspective. Thankfully things are changing. The realization of the importance of inclusion is growing.
In your work talk about some of the images which you feel really explore gender in-equality (you were in Iran?)
Yes, gender equality is a common thread throughout my work. I believe that misogyny is one of the most underestimated inequalities in the world. It is part of every culture, race or religion. I feel that in the Netherlands, we have come very far, and both men and women are happier as a result. But world-wide, I also see a strong backlash. The men are angry and they feel their privilege has being taken away from them. As a result, women’s rights are backsliding. Right now, there is no telling how it will develop.
Your work on the hijab was interesting and in some respects controversial.
Many Iranian women hate the fact they are forced to wear the hijab. They see it as a symbol of oppression, forced upon them not by choice or personal beliefs but by an oppressive regime. For them it represents the inequality and discrimination Iranian women face because of their gender.
How do they express that hatred of the hijab?
Every day, Iranians, especially the women, defy the regime courageously by small acts of defiance. They wear the hijab too low, the colors are too bright, the pants too tight or the manteau too short. Together these constant acts of bravery are affecting change, slowly but visibly evolving. The regime responds to this with regular crack-downs: women are arrested and harassed. They create new laws-recently they banned women from riding bikes.
And what about that shoot-it must have been dangerous?
With the windows of my Tehran apartment covered with tinfoil so that the flash would not be visible from outside, we were safe to create and let creativity flow. The women threw their brightly colored headscarf in the air and as it inescapably floated back to them, I captured their act of defiance.
Following on with your work in Iran-you looked at LGBT women-again this must highly dangerous? How did you feel while trying to capture the images?
I felt very connected to the women because they trusted they me. I had to ensure their identity remained anonymous, so I felt very responsible for them. We shot the whole series in my apartment to make sure that no part of the immediate environment could be traced back to them. I will never forget the time we spent together, they are amazingly brave, awesome women.
Your work on albinos is amazing, particularly with their plight in Africa where their body parts are highly sought after. Talk more about that and what you were trying to convey in your images?
This photo series was created in collaboration with the Josephat Torner Foundation and ‘Stichting Afrikaanse Albino’s’ to raise awareness about the circumstances of people with albinism in Tanzania. In Tanzania, when you have albinism, you are thought to be evil. There’s a price on the head of children with albinism. Killing a person with albinism is considered to bring good luck. The fears and superstitions surrounding albinism run very deep in Tanzanian society. Women are told to kill babies with albinisim. If she refuses, she and the baby will become outcasts.
The images were beautiful.
My goal was to create a series to show the beauty of children with albinism. I wanted to send a positive message, a message of hope, acceptance and inclusion. Many children with albinism are denied the most fundamental human rights. They are taught that they are evil and they are despised. That their existence is a curse. They live in constant fear of brutal attacks. So often, images are shocking, and although that has much value in creating awareness, it also runs the risk of people instinctively looking the other way. My goal was to draw people to my images. Images that would touch their hearts and convey the message.
‘I remember each and every moment that they, for a brief moment, let me into their lives.’ Give us a moment from your times of capturing people that will stay with you?
Two instances stand out vividly: firstly, the Under the Same Sun project looking at the children with albinism. They were so quiet, so patient, almost invisible. As if society’s treatment of them, makes them instinctively go unnoticed. But when they received the presents we brought, their faces lit up, their eyes happy and radiant.
Secondly the women of my project in Iran. It was an immense challenge to find women to work with in an unknown country. It was a special time and something I will never forget-the energy of the women, the process of creativity and working on a cause we all felt passionately about.
Visuals are of all times and they are a truly human experience.
How important are the technical aspects in terms of the work you do and indeed elaborate on the techniques you use and the equipment you use?
My techniques depend on the project and the message I want to convey. For example, during the World Indigenous Games 2015 in Brazil, I used slow shutter speed to capture the indigenous energy – to paint the athlete’s ancient rhythm. But, the hazy imagery was also a metaphor for the fact that indigenous people are fading. In my portraits I use either natural light or studio lights when natural light isn’t available. However, I never use a tripod, I hate feeling restricted, not being able to move around and respond to a moment. I use a Canon 5DS-r, which I absolutely love and my favorite lenses are Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L, Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L and Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L.
What can we look forward to next anything new in the pipeline?
Yes, there is a lot in the pipeline. However, I never share anything about projects before they are completely finalized. It is my way of staying truly intrinsic and keeping my motivation. I keep my ideas and concepts close to my heart where they can develop and be nourished.