February 25th, 2021
Melissa Schriek is an Amsterdam based photographer whose recent book “The City Is A Choreography” explores the performative connection between strangers and their surroundings within public spaces. The images, shot between 2017-2020 within several European cities, emphasizes the common feeling of disconnection between a cities’ society and their youth culture.
What sparked your interest in photography?
I first became interested in photography when I got a small disposable camera to photograph with during a school trip. My father developed the pictures, found them interesting for such a young girl and gave me a ‘real’ camera. Since then, I have been photographing. Using photography as a medium to tell stories first became of interest when I found out that I could get myself into a situation I didn’t belong in because of the camera, or I could meet people I would otherwise have no specific reason to. The camera helped me to satisfy curiosity.
I love the performative approach and unique poses your subjects execute; do you have a dance or performing background?
I danced when I was younger indeed, ballet and modern dance, and afterwards I was trained as a gymnast. Although I have to add that I never did any of this on a high level, I was an amateur for sure, but the performative and sculptural qualities of my own body became very significant to me. The way that the body can express emotions and tell stories is now used in my work.
How do you choose your subjects to shoot? Are they all your friends?
I almost never photograph my own friends because I like to photograph strangers. I like the connection I can have with strangers and the focus we can have while making an image together. Most people I photograph are strangers who I didn’t happen to meet before, although a couple of people I met this way turned out to be friends and appear more often within my images. It depends per project who I’m searching for but recently I have been very interested in photographing young adults around my own age; mostly women.
The City as Choreography was shot in a few cities, including your hometown. How do you go about choosing your locations?
I looked for locations that could be anywhere; not very specific and almost a bit dull. In this way, a lot of people unconsciously seem to recognize the places I photograph; they believe they have seen it before. And visually I also like places that are bit strange, look off, or have pastel colors. There is not a lot of depth in the images from “The City is a Choreography”. The City is really used as a decor.
You mentioned in your book how covid and social distancing have reiterated how important intimacy between people is. How has social distancing affected the way you photograph in a city? As well as the way you interact with your subjects?
Well, practically it has become difficult to photograph people very close together, but what I found really striking is that images I already made prior to covid have new meaning because of it. The images of connection that seemed normal before are now just a nostalgic look into life before covid. Some images even seem surrealistic…
I made one image ‘Elbowkiss’ in 2018, before covid. It is a photograph of two young women sitting on the pavement with their elbows touching. This is now the new way to greet each other because, at least in NL, we can’t shake hands anymore.
Who are some of your inspirations?
So many artists, photographs and artworks but mostly daily life, the city and the way people move.
Is there anyone you would like to collaborate with in the future?
I'm not thinking of anybody in particular, at this point to be honest. There are so many interesting people that I would love to work with! And I feel grateful for everyone who already has worked together with me.
“The City is A Choreography” can be purchased ︎︎︎ here.