Watching her walk along the streets of downtown Milan, elegant in her understated simplicity weaving through the alleyways of C.so Magenta and the majestic basilica of S.Marie delle Grazie, it’s not difficult to understand how she became a high-profile figure of haute couture. A face made of bustling catwalks, flashes, and the strictest standards of beauty. Yet there is nothing cold or stand-offish in the broad smile that welcomes us to her home studio just a few steps from Leonardo’s Last Supper.
Although Mjriam was born and raised in Venice her light blonde hair, facial features and name often mislead people. At 16 she moved to Milan and travelled the world as a model, until making the decision – a natural one, she explains – to move to the other side and express her own creativity from behind the camera’s lens. We interviewed her and found out about her latest project: “30 Shadows of 30 Shades of Urban Attitude”.
You moved from a life spent in front of the camera as a talented model, to behind the camera, which is not a natural step for everyone to take. What triggered this decision?
I have always had a passion for photography. Over the years as a model, I brought an analog camera with me to be able to capture everything that fascinated me: models, dressers, make-up artists, the backstage. Both posed and candid shots. And then I would put the camera in my suitcase when travelling on vacation or when transferred around the world for work. It was only a few years ago that I decided to throw caution to the wind and dedicate myself completely to photography.
A very different role in a field where you had worked extensively. What were the modelling experiences that taught you the most and helped you understand that photography was your true calling?
My experience in the world of fashion was a career with lots of ups and downs. I began very young; sometimes I was a victim, falling into the trap of approval and seeking a stereotype at all costs, above all in standard measures and size.
It was the birth of Curvy Can that changed everything. With a group of colleagues, we created and actuated a project linked to the acceptance of one’s self and self-awareness. It made a very strong media impact, especially on women who experience problems linked with eating disorders, anorexia, bulimia, and obesity above all. It was an overwhelming experience that brought me to travel and talk about my experiences at schools and centres with the help of psychologists and doctors. From that moment on, I understood that I could use photography to help others.
Through my portraits, I seek to exalt the self-confidence of my subjects. From the models to free-lance professionals, from rock stars to theatre actors, from nocturnal trendsetters to housewives. Each one has their own unique and particular beauty. I like putting people with their back against a wall (both physically and figuratively), with no apparent way out, facing me. I try to make them feel comfortable. I let them talk to get a story, a facet of their character or a hidden side of themselves.
You made a very precise and difficult decision to specialise in portraits. Why?
I prefer portraits because I am fascinated and attracted by faces, by glances, and by smiles. A glance can tell you so much about someone’s whole life. I’m convinced that everyone should have a portrait of themselves to immortalise a moment, to stop time.
Over the forthcoming weeks, your collaborative project with neubau eyewear which has been dedicated to faces will finally come to light. What’s it about?
Neubau eyewear was born in a place (the Neubau quarter in Vienna) where the inhabitants are distinguished by their individuality and originality, where creativity and experimentation are a fundamental aspect of their DNA. This story fascinated me and the analogy with Milan was outstanding. It reawakened in me an awareness of these same values in my hometown. Hence the idea for my new photographic project entitled “30 Shades of Urban Attitude“.
I was moved by a desire to immortalise many lives and many stories that make our city a hub of creativity, innovation, experimentation, passion, and commitment. I selected 30 people who could best tell this story: 30 faces, 30 shots, 30 personae of the world of art, fashion, design, urban culture who wear glasses and through them become spokespersons for a fresh, clean, bold, and creative lifestyle. Like Neubau and like Milan. 30 interesting and different lives, who have in common a passion for what each of them does. 30 lives to be told through my lens. All in all, a social experiment that is not only photographic, but also designs thoughts and expressions through the lenses… of both the glasses and the camera.
What pushed you to accept this project and what do you think of the collaborations that brands are proposing more and more often with artists and performers, promoting the birth of original and coherent contents?
Above all, curiosity. “30 Shadows of Urban Attitude” is a very interesting and effective way of developing it. Curiosity pushes me to seek beyond appearances: a different look, a light in the eyes that is subdued by shyness or by the role one plays in society. I think that if a brand does not present itself as a classic client, but accepts and understands the authentic spirit of the artist, letting him work freely with his own creativity, it will find a unique and highly effective way of reaching its target. And art has a new means of spreading and growing.
The phenomenon of gentrification is transformation entire urban areas – once popular and industrial zones – into true artistic and cultural districts. Which cities have inspired you the most for where you might live?
During my career as a model I travelled a lot. The cities that inspired me the most were London and New York. They are so different from each other and so different from Italy, to which I am forever bound. I would go to live in New York tomorrow for the atmosphere there and for the opportunity to succeed in doing what I truly believe in. However, I remain a traveller with a desire to return.
Would you consider a photographic project dedicated to cities and the creativity that is being born therein?
At this time I am specialised in portraits because it is the thing I feel suits me best. But in the future, why not? As I said, curiosity is drives me, so exploring new paths is a natural consequence.
What is the next project you have planned, and what would you like to work on?
I love photography and I love the idea of being able to launch positive messages through it. My next project – which I have already begun planning – will be linked to social. But at this time, I would rather not reveal any more.