Melissa Schriek’s Bodies in Flux

‘ODE’, the latest work by Melissa Schriek, depicts the dynamics of female friendship.

When I was in primary school we went on a school trip to an amusement park, and my father gave me a small disposable camera so I could capture the day. When I returned and the film was developed, he found out I carefully posed classmates and made a lot of photos that he did not expect from a child. He then gave me one of his camera’s and since then I have been photographing. First my friends and my surroundings and later,  developing a more conceptual approach as I grew older. I studied at the Royal Academy of Art in The Netherlands and graduated five years later from the documentary photography department.

‘ODE’ is an exploration of the dynamics of female friendship which started with the idea that female friendships are often misrepresented in our media and culture. It is often shown as toxic, imbalanced and dishonest. This has never been my experience, I think sisterhood is a very strong, bonding connection. Female friendships have always felt highly personal to me and in my experience they are often build on a deep level trust and dependency. I wanted to capture this in a physical and dynamic way. Because of my interest in the human body and my ongoing exploration of the human connections between people around me, I started photographing pairs of best friends together in different positions and settings. How can you photograph a connection between two people? How can you feel sisterhood? And how can I use existing stereotypes in my work without directly acknowledging them? 

For me, photography is not about the truth. The truth does not exist, therefore it is impossible to capture it, but I did want to show a different side of female friendship than we might be used to.

The project is in its starting phase and I will continue to work on it in the coming months. What I show here is a preview of the current state of the project. In the end, I hope this work can be seen as I intend it, as an ode to female friendship

Often when I start a new project I start by just making photos and do not think about it too much, simply following my intuition. I have a tendency to overthink so I try to avoid that by just focusing on the process of making and reflect on it afterward or on the way. With ODE it went the same way, the idea to capture the dynamics of female friendship popped into my mind and I wrote it down.

Melissa Schriek behind the scenes

Credits: Sara Europaeus, Lisa Faria, Jente Hageman, Lotte Hamelink, Marilou Hemmerlin, Christina Mastori, Whitney Paardekooper, Lara Sluijter, Linde Wagemakers, Hannah Ypma, and SERIÓÓS collective

“Presence for me is about being present in a moment and being able to feel and express the emotions that belong to it.”

Melissa Schriek scans
Melissa PlusMag3
14cba plusmag melissaschriek

Only after a month, I read back what I had written down and decided I wanted to start making this into a project. Shortly after I learned about the theme of this issue of Plus Magazine,  ‘Present of presence’ and I saw a strong connection straight away. The present of presence for me is about being present in a moment and being able to feel and express the emotions that belong to it. This can be a difficult task in a time in which the digital world seems as big and absorbing as the ‘real’ world. In my day-to-day life, I am constantly searching for ways to be more present in my personal relationships, the people I meet, the friends I have, the things I see. I wanted to relate my project to this theme because I feel the way I show female friendship in a very physical way, symbolizes this same presence of heart and mind. The ability to capture a complex and deep connection between people in a single pose, is for me the ultimate representation (the word says it all) of presence and being present together.

I often photograph people I meet on social media, which for me is a great way to get in touch with new people that I do already share some kind of connection within my daily life. The fact that I do not know most people I photograph in this project personally, gives me the feeling I get a short but intense view of their friendship. This allows me to capture it with an outside view looking in and be open and unbiased from the start. This is the same reason I like to have short and high-energy shoots. I feel this works best for both me and the people I portray as it forces both sides to rely on their intuition and be in the moment. For this project, the only requirement I had was that I wanted to photograph pairs of female best friends. 

ODE is the first project I started completely on my own, with no art academy to show work to, no deadlines (if you don’t make them yourself), no one pushing me to actually make work. It has been liberating to feel the drive to make work and make my own timeline on the way. It has been so interesting to see how a small idea that once popped into my mind developed into something very visual so quickly. The freedom made me more experimental, working with movement within photography for instance. I have not been afraid of ‘failing’, it has not occurred to me actually. ODE is still very much in development but I feel that in a short time I created a strong base to work further upon.

“I am constantly searching for ways to be more present in my personal relationships, the people I meet, the friends I have, the things I see.”

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