In conversation with Anne Merten, a self-taught German photographer.
Today I’m pleased to introduce you to Anne Merten, a German photographer specializing in natural self-portraits. Influenced by vintage aesthetics, nature, art, and feminine sensuality, Anne Merten’s photographs are often characterized by a dreamy, kind of nostalgic look. In our exclusive interview, you can read what Anne has to say about her work.
How did you get into photography?
“It started about 12 years ago. I discovered my father’s analog camera and just tried it out. Even then, I liked the aesthetics of film as a medium. However, I didn’t have much of a clue about it up to now. I knew a few things about aperture and exposure time, but what you can do with it, I had to learn over the years. Then I bought a used Canon and a slightly better lens and then started taking photos in nature and mainly discovered self-portraits for myself, which has not changed to this day. The inexhaustibility of digital photography naturally benefited me, as I could take many different photos without limits and thus I could improve my skills quickly.”
Your self-portraits show a strong connection to nature. How do you always find new places and do you have help with your shoots or do you do everything by yourself?
“That’s right, my greatest inspiration is and will be nature. At the moment, I still live in two different places and on the one hand, I have more opportunities to meet special places due to the greater variety. On the other hand, it is probably my home in particular that interests me not only in terms of the landscape but also where I know my way around best. It was only when I took photos that I found myself opening my eyes. As a result, I perceive my surroundings more precisely and have become more prone to small, special places and moments. I roam around a lot and have to realize how diverse a landscape can be at first glance, if you only choose a small section of it, for example. When taking photos, I do everything by myself. From choosing the location over the right image section to the final shot. Of course, I reach my limits, but that’s just important—because this is my moment and my photo.”
What inspires you?
“Above all, nature. Landscapes, the weather, the light, colors, structures and seasons, the emotions that arise as a result. But also the art of the impressionists and romantics as well as films.”
How would you describe your photographic style?
“I hope it is not interpreted in a cheesy way, but I think romantic, melancholy. It is probably my interpretation of being alone in nature, loneliness or the search for it. For me, these moments always have something therapeutic, some kind of healing. I can be amazed, be with myself and capture the moment and transform it into a photo, even if it is more staged. But that is exactly where the attraction lies for me. I would also like to make this feeling tangible for the recipient. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t publish the photos either. As an artist, one always hopes for a discourse.”
What makes a good photo?
“A narrative aspect. I am prone to beauty but more important to me is the atmosphere and a possible story behind the photo. For me, a good image also has something cinematic and mysterious about it—whether staged or whether it is a snapshot. It can also be a botanical macro photograph, but then I prefer to work in series to give an impression of the entire place, but I don’t want to reveal everything in order to leave room for my own imagination. Formally it is the balance between structures and emptiness as well as the compositions and contrasts or the angle of view. For me, everything has to be as harmonious as possible.”
Analog or digital?
“That is very difficult to answer. I would say digital. As charming and exciting as analog photography can be, I really appreciate the possibilities of digital photography. For me, this also includes image processing. Matching and playing with colors and light is a highlight for me. I can once again choose which impression a photo should have. In the case of analog photography, one has to give up this opportunity.”
What are your goals for the future?
“To have a lot more time for my art. In the next year, there will be some restructuring for me in this direction and I’m really looking forward to it. I still have so many ideas and wishes that I want to realize creatively. My goal for the future is to have more courage to free myself from obligations that give me security, but ultimately limit my creative work. That applies to the near future. For a long time, it is my goal, quite bourgeois, to own a house with a garden in the countryside.”
What does a perfect day look like for you?
“The best thing to do is wake up on my own and without an alarm clock before sunrise and go out with my camera to experience and capture it. When I come home, I have a relaxed breakfast so that I can sort and edit the photos afterwards. The rest of the day I would spend in the garden, listening to the bees and birds and reading.”
Do you plan your shoots or does it all happen spontaneously?
“It’s a mix. I consciously choose an area beforehand and also think about my outfit or utensils that I will take with me and what I would like to convey. The rest then happens on-site and I see what is possible. Sometimes I would like to be a little more organized, but then the ideas are usually different from the reality. But I like it best when the ideas only emerge during the course of the shoot because then you are in your bubble and fully involved.”
What do you particularly like about photography?
“Photography is a medium with which something can be transported relatively quickly. I’m a big fan of decelerating, but with photography, it is possible for me to capture fleeting moments immediately. It’s just a visualized collection of memories and evidence of your own existence. That feels good.”
All images © by Anne Merten. You can find more of her photographic work on her website or follow Anne on Instagram to stay up to date with her latest work. In addition, you can discover more photographers in our popular Photography section.
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