five images from the magical world of miriam marlene waldner

The world that photographer Miriam Marlene Waldner manifests in her images is full of secrets - an unapologetically feminine world of soft focus scenes and pastel colours that bring to mind the the whimsical aesthetics of Wes Anderson. Learn more about Miriam here as she talks us through five of her favourite images.

“If someone would look at my work they’d know the photos were taken by a woman,” photographer Miriam Marlene declares. “It’s easier to photograph women because they understand my photography more and they’re open to my ideas about costume and dressing up.” Her photographs give a cinematic glimpse into stories that make references to classic fairy tales and take visual cues from films like Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides and 70s Australian cult classic Picnic at Hanging Rock. “When I take photographs of people,” Miriam explains, “I always say that I’m not putting out everything into the world, I’m showing a specific edited part of something.” Just like the movies Miriam’s work brings to mind, there’s a sense of sisterhood, of unspoken bonds, mystery and ritual, but it’s all elusive, all alluded to with a subtle wink.

1. “I guess you could call this a self portrait. I picked this photo because it wasn’t a directly set up image. It was evening, there was this light from a table lamp and I realised the shadow was really nice. It has a natural and mysterious quality to it, it’s almost disorientating. It’s not explicit with what is happening, it feels like there’s room for people to make up their own narrative about exactly what’s happening in the image.”
1. “I guess you could call this a self portrait. I picked this photo because it wasn’t a directly set up image. It was evening, there was this light from a table lamp and I realised the shadow was really nice. It has a natural and mysterious quality to it, it’s almost disorientating. It’s not explicit with what is happening, it feels like there’s room for people to make up their own narrative about exactly what’s happening in the image.”

“There’s definitely something mysterious [in my work],” Miriam reflects. “It scares me a little bit because I don’t know whether things like that really do exist or not. I don’t know if they could be real. It fascinates me.” Just like their visual quality, Miriam’s work conceptually blurs the line between reality and fantasy, toying with the power of suggestion. “I was always into costumes,” says Miriam, going on to explain that she always had an interest in fashion but was infinitely more interested in the fantasy world of creating characters and using costume.

“I try to capture what I see in the person I’m photographing - treading a fine line between setting something up and showing the person naturally. If it’s a mostly costumed based photograph, then it’s about finding a story and a character that connects with the person I’m photographing. With things like Instagram we’re constantly flooded by pictures but I try and create my own stories and ideas.”

2. “This was from a bigger shoot. I had 13 girls, some were friends, or friends of friends, some I found through Instagram. I always wanted to have a bigger group of people to photograph. It’s shot in the park where I went to school. The inspiration for the pierrots came from Russian fairy tales. I put together the costumes, the hats and shirts. It wasn’t easy to have so many people together in one shot and to also set it up, that was definitely a challenge for me.”
2. “This was from a bigger shoot. I had 13 girls, some were friends, or friends of friends, some I found through Instagram. I always wanted to have a bigger group of people to photograph. It’s shot in the park where I went to school. The inspiration for the pierrots came from Russian fairy tales. I put together the costumes, the hats and shirts. It wasn’t easy to have so many people together in one shot and to also set it up, that was definitely a challenge for me.”
I try to capture what I see in the person I’m photographing - treading a fine line between setting something up and showing the person naturally.
3. “This is in my parents garden just outside of Berlin, it’s a tree which is blooming and then there are silk scarves in the tree. It’s the garden that I grew up in and it’s full of trees, like the apple trees that I’ve used a lot in my work. It was a spontaneous shot that I set up for fun. There’s no real deeper thought or inspiration, but it’s a moment that turned out really beautiful.
3. “This is in my parents garden just outside of Berlin, it’s a tree which is blooming and then there are silk scarves in the tree. It’s the garden that I grew up in and it’s full of trees, like the apple trees that I’ve used a lot in my work. It was a spontaneous shot that I set up for fun. There’s no real deeper thought or inspiration, but it’s a moment that turned out really beautiful."

The 22-year-old photographer grew up in a small town on the outskirts of Berlin as part of a big family alongside her twin sister, two brothers and older sister. Miriam describes her relationship with her twin as “really close but also pretty different,” where her sister was outgoing, Miriam was the shy and quiet twin. “Those times, I tried to build up my own world in stories,” Miriam reveals, “I was always behind my sister and it made things easier, she would always speak and I would say nothing.” At around the age of 12, Miriam began to experiment with taking photographs, dressing up her twin sister to photograph. Miriam says it was her grandma, herself a keen picture taker, that first inspired and encouraged her interest in photography. Her grandma took photographs using light and reflections through coloured glass, she would project these onto objects, but she never photographed people - just what Miriam describes as “natural timeless things.”

Being a self-taught talent and having never formerly studied photography, Miriam’s philosophy on image taking is more concerned with the idea of the overall image than some of the more technical details of photography and cameras. “Oh god, I feel like a real photographer should have studied,” she worries. When I ask Miriam if she considers herself a professional photographer she says, “It seems a bit odd to say I’m not a professional photographer because it’s the main thing that I do.” Miriam always shoots on film and always uses natural light in her work, preferring to shoot in the great outdoors.

As a parting question I ask Miriam if she’s good at keeping secrets. Her reply comes with an impish smile: “If I want to - yes.”

miriam-marlene-waldner.tumblr.com

4. “This photo is of my friend Sasha. Sasha is from New York and was shooting a movie in Budapest where my twin sister is studying, so I thought I would visit her and my sister. The photo was taken in the backyard of my sister’s apartment. Sasha is my favourite person in front of the camera because she instinctively understands situations and has this great input into the work and is actually excited to do it and be a part of it. It was super cold that day and she ran down and secretly opened this window and climbed out onto this little corner - it was totally dangerous and forbidden but she did it anyway.”
4. “This photo is of my friend Sasha. Sasha is from New York and was shooting a movie in Budapest where my twin sister is studying, so I thought I would visit her and my sister. The photo was taken in the backyard of my sister’s apartment. Sasha is my favourite person in front of the camera because she instinctively understands situations and has this great input into the work and is actually excited to do it and be a part of it. It was super cold that day and she ran down and secretly opened this window and climbed out onto this little corner - it was totally dangerous and forbidden but she did it anyway.”
5. “Petite Meller is a bit of a muse. She has her own style and sticks to it pretty strictly, always working with the same stylist. She’s almost like an actress to photograph. She has a really good eye for aesthetic and colours. This image was a kind of behind the scenes shot from when she was shooting her video for ‘Milk Bath’ on location close to Bavaria. They shot part of the video in Germany and I was in Berlin so I came with them. The first time I shot her was in Stockholm, she was recording there and I didn’t know her, I came over and took some photos of her and they worked really well. Petite liked the photos and gave me some proper feedback, I was 18 at the time and she said I should follow my instincts and it motivated me a lot. After that if we’re in the same city or she’s not too far then I come over.”
5. “Petite Meller is a bit of a muse. She has her own style and sticks to it pretty strictly, always working with the same stylist. She’s almost like an actress to photograph. She has a really good eye for aesthetic and colours. This image was a kind of behind the scenes shot from when she was shooting her video for ‘Milk Bath’ on location close to Bavaria. They shot part of the video in Germany and I was in Berlin so I came with them. The first time I shot her was in Stockholm, she was recording there and I didn’t know her, I came over and took some photos of her and they worked really well. Petite liked the photos and gave me some proper feedback, I was 18 at the time and she said I should follow my instincts and it motivated me a lot. After that if we’re in the same city or she’s not too far then I come over.”

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