I must have been around four or five when I sat on my parent’s bed next to my little brother. My father closed the curtains, set up the projector and showed us a Christmas time film he had made. It was about us, about me and my brother; we danced and laughed, we decorated the lowest branches of our Christmas tree with blue and red glass balls.
I remember how strange it felt looking at myself on the white bedroom wall. That was me for sure swirling on the floor without any shame. She had my ridiculous haircut and brown pantyhose. And yet, how could it be me, when I was there, sitting on the bed, carefully watching?
That is my relationship with photography. I am seeking the childhood magic.
We have an innate need to surround ourselves with stories. We use stories, written and visual ones, to make sense of life, to better understand each other and ourselves. We use stories to connect.
I‘ve always loved stories. I love listening to them, reading, and writing them, but I only started taking pictures after my first child was born. I shot to document, to remember the moments, how the light hit the green walls on our bedroom, how she smiled and waved her fingers towards the window when she woke up. The first steps, first everything. Those were the kind of pictures I wanted to have when I couldn’t sleep and was afraid I wouldn’t remember any of it.
Then we moved abroad, first to Poland, then to the States. I bought an iPhone. Little by little photography took over. The memory on my phone, constantly full. I wanted to document everything; the white walls, yellow school busses, the way everything felt like living in a collection of short stories. How new it all felt, exciting.
Soon documenting gave way to treasure hunting. I collected shadows, light, clouds, trees, houses, doors, people, streets, anything and everything. It was liberating, it felt like play. My best attempt at becoming Indiana Jones.
I’m still in that phase. I shoot everything that interests me, everything that resonates. I try to capture the red bird sitting next to my window, how the morning light falls on dead tulips at 6:27 AM when my girls are still sleeping, and I’m drinking coffee, writing.
I like street photography and I enjoy shooting portraits. I watch people and imagine what keeps them awake at 2:00 AM, what are they hiding, what songs they listen to when they feel alone. People have always interested me the most.
For me a frame is a separate moment in a story that has already begun. There’s a character, a protagonist, someone that I can relate to. There are forces that resist each other: light and darkness, uniqueness and mundane, stillness and motion. There is the feeling that something is about to happen, a twist is approaching.
A frame leaves me with questions and expectations. It creates suspense and makes me ask what if, what then, what next. But it does not provide answers. It leaves the story unresolved.
I’m drawn to frames that feel strange and mysterious, cinematic frames that feel more like Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and less CNN. I love that feeling I sometimes get when shooting, the feeling that there’s a secret I can’t immediately figure out, everything does not instantly make sense. Life does not always make sense.
Emotions are personal, subjective. The feelings I have when shooting differ from the viewers’. We interpret the pictures based on the stories, fears and needs we carry within ourselves. When we look at art, we look at ourselves.
The magic of photography is it celebrates the uniqueness of a given moment. Witnessing a special moment lingering in front of me, being able to capture that, knowing that it will never exist again. Magic. It is finding shadows that make me feel small. It is a sudden eye contact in the middle of a street when waiting for the light to turn, hearing the seagulls close by. It is seeing small stories. The flag on the wall, people gathering beneath it, speaking Russian, the way the man shakes his head and watches his shoes underneath the table. It is studying expressions on his face, learning his secrets.
A good frame feels like a poem, like looking at someone’s dreams.
The girl went to look for mermaids
She found green that felt heavy and tasted secrets
like a broken tea cup hidden in a closet with forget-me-nots crying for water and why
I take pictures for the same reason I write. I do it to experience how it would feel to be someone else, to understand. To better live this life as me. To be more like a child again.
You can find me on Instagram as @masusanne.