words Zarah Cheng
All images are from Marta's portfolio.
Where are you from?
Warsaw, Poland. I was born and spent most of my life there.
How would you describe Warsaw to someone who has never been there?
Vibrant. Developing fast, despite having a difficult history. A bit unorganized, with many different faces, but that’s why it has a special character. It’s not very pretty, at least not obviously pretty, but very comfortable to live in – like a person who can attract you by having that atypical or strange kind of beauty.
Warsaw is known for its eclectic mix of historical and modern buildings. How has the landscape of the city shaped you as a photographer?
I’ve never thought about it that way to be honest, but for sure the atmosphere of the city affects one’s works somehow. Maybe eclecticism is the key to answer that question. I don’t think I have one specified style as a photographer – actually I don’t want to have any, not yet. Of course I know what I aesthetically like and what I don’t, but I’m still learning. I want to try new things and gain experiences. I prefer to change styles, use both digital and analogue techniques, choosing the right form for each project.
My favourite type of photos are ones that make me feel a little uneasy, like eerie buildings or spaces where it feels like something isn’t quite right. Some of your images definitely have this feeling, which I love! How would you, personally, describe the atmosphere in your photos?
That’s a tough one! I think it totally depends on the particular picture or project, but I’m trying to capture places that affect me somehow – or moments, which are in any way emotional for me. It has to be honest, authentic. I’m not going to fake any feelings or atmosphere, because it never works – if the photographer doesn’t really feel the subject or is just pretending, the works won’t look good.
But I think that many of my photos have that kind of lonely, melancholic atmosphere, when everything is quite pretty, but somehow uneasy at the same time – probably that’s the feeling you called that ‘something isn’t quite right.’ I really like that description, I have to admit! J
Dancers are a recurring subject in your photos. What is it about dance that is most interesting to you as a photographer?
Yes, I’m crazy about modern dance or body expression in general; it interests and inspires me a lot, how you can communicate and create emotions using your body. I love [collaborating] with the dancers because it’s always about making something together, not just asking them to do what I want. We use different visual languages, so it took some time and practice to really go into it and to understand what they were doing, but that’s how we can learn from each other. Every time I work with dancers, creative juices are flowing ;)
You spent a semester studying in Finland last year. As a photographer, how was it different to take photos in Finland versus Poland?
I remember that as exchange students, we were told at the very beginning that in Finland it is forbidden to take photos of people without their permission and I decided to obey that rule. I was in a new surrounding, with totally new people from all around the world, so there were quite a lot of subjects to photograph anyway. In Poland, I know well what I can or cannot do as a photojournalist or street photographer, and I usually don’t care about permissions too much. But in general, there are not that many differences – you can make great works anywhere.
How do you hope viewers react to your photos? Are there certain emotions or feelings that you try to evoke?
In general, I believe that you never have total control over the viewer’s emotions. Each person has an individual bunch of experiences far too complex to predict what kind of associations the image could provoke. It depends on a project of course, but usually I’m trying to make people think. If the image makes you stop for a while and think about why it was taken, what the overall idea is, or just gives any purely aesthetic feeling, I think I did my job well. The worst is when the image is just an ‘ok’ type, not staying in your mind even for a second, not evoking any reaction.
Who are you listening to right now (bands/artists)?
Jon Hopkins’s album Immunity while working, but definitely the song of the summer for me is “Lean On” by Major Lazer & DJ Snake ft. MØ.
What was your favourite memory from this summer?
My birthday: surprise-meeting with friends, who I haven’t seen for a year, traveling together with their van to the Lake of Constance and spending totally carefree days there.
Favourite movie of all time?
Hmm, there are quite many. But if I have to choose, it would be the LOTR Trilogy. It’s probably because of the many good memories connected to it but yes, I’m a bit geeky when it comes to that ;)
What creeps you out the most?
Weird people staring at you.
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