Marianne Demmo Interview
Lemonade Magazine: For those who aren’t aware of you or your art could you give us a brief introduction?
Marianne Demmo: My name is Marianne, I’m 24 years old from Norway and a recent graduate from Swansea Metropolitan University where I just received a BA (Hons) Photojournalism. For the last two years I’ve been documenting the lands of the ‘East’. I’m interested in the human landscape, how it is imagined and portrayed. Inspired by the writings of Edward Said and his ideas on Orientalism I seek to challenge the common perception of these ‘exotic’ lands and aim to deconstruct the way we in the west ‘look’ at the east.
LM: Who or what inspired you to start creating art?
MD: From a young age I was encouraged by my parents to take an interest in art – they would often take me to see exhibitions and visit the local galleries. My mother is also a painter and our house is filled with her wonderful colourful paintings. She’s also a keen hobby photographer and encouraged me to pick up the camera.
LM: You honed your craft at University, how did you find your time studying and did it help you to become the artist you are today?
MD: I loved my three years in Swansea and I got to learn from some great people. Nonetheless I found my time at University to be very challenging at times, especially in the last year or so figuring out where the hell I want to go with my work – the support I got from my teachers here has been indispensable for me.
LM: How would you describe your creative process? Is there a specific starting point or do you prefer to approach your work more organically?
MD: – My approach is definitely more organic.
LM: Tell us about your favourite piece of work that you have created to date and why it is so special to you?
MD: I’m not sure it’s my favourite, but the work that is closest to me is my ongoing projects in Marrakech.
LM: You have amassed a strong body of work so far, what is it about that particular project that is so special to you?
MD: There is so many aspects of Marrakech that fascinates me and interests me as a photographer. I started to document Marrakech two years ago and at the moment I have several projects there that I’m currently working on – some which are more developed than others. Hopefully one day it will all come together, perhaps in the shape of a book, but the fact that I’m not entirely sure yet where these projects will take me is also something I enjoy very much.
LM: Tell us about the work you exhibited at Free Range, what was the aim of the project and where were the photographs taken?
MD: At Free Range I exhibited a project of mine entitled “Amr: Aqaba”. The title itself is based upon Ibn Khaldun’s concept of Omran; which comes from the Arabic word amr, (filling an empty space). Amr: Aqaba consists of a series of images I took in the Jordanian city of Aqaba. On my travels in Jordan I was struck by the nature of the landscape of Aqaba; half finished buildings that made a mockery of the 2006 Jordanian Government’s announcement that they would transform the area of Aqaba (“one of the most sought after parcels of real estate in the world”) “into a commercial, residential and tourism powerhouse”. The aim of this project was to show how the desire of the Jordanians to open up their country to the West had in many ways become a failed dream.
LM: Your choice of landscapes differs vastly across your portfolio, from the dry, arid scenery of the Marrakech series to the frigid and often desolate landscapes of your ‘Natteranglerne’ project. Was this an intentional contrast or were you merely showcasing the different worlds that inspire you?
MD: I would say this is partly due to the fact that I have developed as a photographer but it also comes from the fact that I approach different ‘worlds’ differently according to my relationship with the place as well as the aim of my project.
For example, ‘Natteranglerne’ is one of my earlier projects and it was made for the book I had to produce in my second year of university. It was shot around Christmas 2010 and it documents my hometown Bergen from the perspective of my mother, who is a ‘night owl’ and at night in her travels she interacts with different characters that you find inhabiting Bergen’s nightlife. It’s quite an intimate and deals with my personal relationship with my hometown, whereas in my later work I’ve aimed to be more political.
LM: Who are your favourite artists, past and present?
MD: Amongst many artists that inspire me, I’m deeply fascinated by the life and work of Norwegian artist Edvard Munch. As for photography, there’s so much fantastic work out there but my favourites are Robert Mapplethorpe and Brassaï as well as August Sander. Then of course there’s Pink Floyd and the amazing Patti Smith.
LM: What is your favourite piece of work created by another artist and why?
MD: It would be very hard for me to single out a particular piece of work as my favourite, but nothing inspires me more than the music and art of Pink Floyd.
LM: Do you have a particular material, brand or technique that you swear by and use for all of your work?
MD: I love experimenting with different films and cameras it’s part of what I love about photography –there’s always something to learn and the medium is constantly changing. Nonetheless, for most of my work I shoot colour film on Hasselblad (6×6 medium format camera).
LM: Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for aspiring artists?
MD: My best advice is simply to work hard. I think it’s also very important to be critical of your own work. I think it’s very important to seek advice but at the same time it’s important for you to stay true to yourself and what you believe in.
LM: Can you give us 3 words that describe you as artist?
MD: Sceptic, political and romantic.
LM: What can we expect from you in the future and is there anywhere you would like your work to take?
MD: It’s hard to say. All I know now is that I’m moving to Marrakech to work as an au pair for a French family there. This is fantastic for me because it means I can develop my projects and carry on working in the city I love.