Anja Niemi talks to us about her series “Scarlets”

Anja Niemi: Starlets series follows hot on the heels of her critically acclaimed and commercially successful show Do Not Disturb which was on show at The Little Black Gallery in 2012.

In Niemi’s new series Starlets, she continues to combine the self-portrait with the idea of the staged narrative. The images are like film stills or movie posters, with herself cast as all the characters. Niemi calls herself a ‘one-man band’, as she always works alone. 

The stories are loosely told leaving room for interpretation, and although it is mostly fiction this time, “there will always be a bit of me in them” she says, believing that private experiences helps to create universal statements.  She often multiplies myself, to look at inner conflicts or the contrast between what we show and who we are. The images possess an eerie, unreal quality, combining tragedy with humor. “We have a tendency to cover up our flaws and decay,  hiding all the ugliness of life and I try to have a bit of humor about it.”

Born in Norway in 1976, Anja Niemi studied at London College of Printing and Parsons School of Design in Paris and New York. She has exhibited widely in both Europe and USA with her previous series ‘Do Not Disturb’, ‘Portrait of the Invisible’ and ‘Porcelain’.

Anja Niemi is one of the most exciting young European photographers. Art Review tipped her as a ‘bright young thing’, and by Art & Auction as ‘one to watch’.

platformPHOTO: Hi Anja, please can you tell us what has inspired you to create the series “Starlets”?
Anja Niemi: I have a fascination with all the things that crawl underneath our surfaces. We have a tendency to hide all the ugliness of life and I wanted to create characters that had a few cracks in their facades.

platformPHOTO: You call yourself a “one-man band” as you always work alone. Can you elaborate upon why you choose to work independently?
Anja Niemi: For me photographing is private, and I just love every part of the process. I would not want to give any of it away!

platformPHOTO: Have you found working entirely alone to be a challenge in creating this series?
Anja Niemi: Definitely! I can spend a whole day doing the same pose over and over. Since I cannot see when shooting it can be a challenge to get it right. Although some poses demand more than others, like crash landing face first in a sofa, I have a lot of will power when it comes to my work, and never give up until I am happy.

platformPHOTO: Would it be fair to say that this series is a continuity of your previous project “Do Not Disturb”? If so, could you explain why?
Anja Niemi: After finishing ‘Do Not Disturb’, I was really addicted to the act of becoming something else, and wanted more. There is something incredibly freeing about transforming yourself into something unknown. It´s as if you are no longer responsible for your own actions, and get to do whatever you like.

platformPHOTO: Please tell us a bit about the process you went through to create this series. For example, how long did it take you to create?
Anja Niemi: Starlets took about one year to produce.  I spent a lot of time in post-production, once photographing I generally have a very short time, so I need to be prepared. Ideally I like to spend two days on each shoot, but sometimes it´s not possible and I have to work faster. It can get pretty ridiculous, being photographer, model and stylist at the same time, especially when on roller skates dressed in a leotard! But these are the things that add the humor and I love mixing it with the morbid.

platformPHOTO:  What advice would you give to other photographers choosing to shoot and produce their photography project entirely on their own?
Anja Niemi: I try to keep the technical aspect simple, just me, my camera and my costumes.

platformPHOTO:  Are you currently working on another project? If yes, please can you tell us a bit about it.
Anja Niemi: I have started working on something new and this time I am actually not all alone, I am doing a collaboration with my author sister Lena Niemi. The project is titled The Flamingo Motel. It´s too early to tell more!

platformPHOTO:  Here’s our last question. If we sent you to a desert island and you could take one picture taken by another photographer, what would it be?
Anja Niemi: I think Andreas Gursky´s Montparnasse would be a nice contrast on a desert Island, to help me keep things in perspective!

For more information, visit Anja Niemi‘s website:

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