A talk with … Johanna-Maria Fritz
Johanna-Maria Fritz (born 1994, lives in Germany) joins this year’s STEYPA with photographs of artists of the Icelandic circus “Sirkus Íslands”. We spoke with Johanna-Maria about her passion for photography and circuses.
When did you first become interested in photography?
I first started taking pictures when I was about 13 or 14 years old.
How did your photography develop over the years?
I just started documenting my life, my friends and everything around me. My first digital camera was unfortunately stolen, so I had to use my uncle’s analogue camera.
What is your relationship to Iceland?
I was in Iceland for the first time in 2012. In the winter. So we had a quite hard time there, but it was also the best time I’ve ever had. We just worked with farmers and had no obligations. In the beginning of 2014, one of my best friends moved to Iceland. That’s when I got the idea of taking pictures of a circus in this amazing landscape. I worked in a stable where my friend was listening to the radio constantly. And there was advertising for the “Sirkus Íslands”. So I called them and I met the guys the next day.
How do you perceive Icelandic culture and nature?
I think the Icelandic people are pretty close to nature in the way that they farm, and one reason is certainly because they are such a small population in a big country. All their stories are based on the nature too, so that’s why I decided to cover some of the circus people surrounded by nature. To show how close they are to their land.
What is your favorite place in Iceland?
My favorite place is in Hvolsvöllur at the farm where my best friend used to work. Especially the field down near the river with all the horses standing around watching you.
How can we see Iceland in your STEYPA project?
Just have a look.
What inspires you to take pictures?
As I mentioned, I started at an early age. So I don’t really have to go here or there with a specific plan. Instead it’s more about the people I take pictures of. I usually have a general idea for a project and head into it with just a basic concept and let the person inspire me. The picture comes with person and maybe the person’s house or the things around the place where we meet. I let my feelings guide me.
What role does photography play in your life?
Photography is my life.
What working methods do you use?
For “Sirkus Íslands” I used my analogue Hasselblad (6×6). I also have a Leica m6 and a digital Canon.
“Sirkus Íslands” is more than just the only circus you photographed (red. “Zirkus Rolandos”) – What is it like photographing the circus artists and experiencing their environment?
Well, I’ve been all over the world to document circuses –In addition to Iceland, I’ve been in Palestine (West Bank & Gaza), Iran and Germany. And I’m planning a trip to Afghanistan soon as well. Every circus is different. For example, the one in Germany has a long-standing tradition: They’ve been around for several generations but had to close because it was too expensive. In Iran they have also a long family tradition with the animals and all the other things that belong to a circus. And in Palestine it was more like a pastime for children, as well a political tool for the trainers who have been creating shows for years in Palestine and all over Europe to tell the story about Palestine.
Why are you attracted by circuses?
It’s the huge sense of freedom yet close family cohesion that I find quite interesting.
What have you learned from being a photographer’s assistant?
I’ve worked for some really nice photographers over the last years, including Daniel Josefsohn, who is one of the most important artist in Europe. So I learned all the important things about the business from him. He helped me with the aspect of creativity and how to express your feelings in pictures.
What makes “Sirkus Íslands” special?
“Sirkus Íslands” is a new thing for Iceland. The people are really interested in it and are going there. It’s not like a circus in the rest of Europe. So it’s important to show their way of life and to document this time.
Thank you, Johanna-Maria, for this interview.
The series “Sirkus Íslands” was shown several times in Germany and abroad and has won various awards and distinctions, e.g. “ImageNow Special Prize” (Germany, November 2015), winner of the “Kolga Photofestival Newcomer Prize” (Georgia, April 2016), shortlisted for the “Athens Photo Festival” (Greece, April 2016), winner of the “Jugend Photo Award” (May 2016, Germany) and 2nd prize at the “Moscow International Photo Award” “Culture” (Russia, June 2016).
Johanna-Maria Fritz at STEYPA
Proofreading/Editing: Melinda Kumbalek