SWITZERLAND: Photographer Marie Formica aka MATA HARIE – Intimacy, Soul Food and Touching Hands – Lausanne

The great photographs of MARIE FORMICA aka MATA HARIE are breathtakingly honest, they fascinate with their intimate moments that we all know but can never see ourselves like this. The creative artist from the Swiss city Lausanne at the Lake Geneva photographed these people in their most human moments, sometimes laughing, sometimes sad, sometimes angry, or just pensively daydreaming. When you think of this description, you first think of the faces and facial expressions of a person. But MATA HARIE has a special fable for hands. For the veins, the structures and the anatomical conditions. She is impressed and likes to photograph them. Hands tell a story. On the one “hand” how they are positioned, how they are held and used, but also by what “is written on them”. Especially the hands of older people, with all the wrinkles and signs of the years.

MATA HARIE‘s photos are just captivating . She usually only works with black and white, with light and shadow. But you will find also astonishing takes with color. Quite some while ago I came across her art and photos, and since then I’ve been following her new snapshots on Instagram and the view of people through MARIE FORMICA‘s eyes. It’s impressing to see her deep and touching talent for the image, the person and the camera. She has just developed her own indivudual and special technique and style in the work with colour, or rather non-colour, means black and white. Her photos show us people in a very special way. Actually in a just normal human way. Without Photoshop or Glimmer. Her photos are real and beautiful, of real moments. Photos of me and you just how we are. Rare those days in the front media. In an intersting interview she tells us about her photography art and creative doings.

When did you start photographing? Since when are you doing this and how did it come that you started with it?

In my family, we are somehow drawn to photography, but I really started taking pictures with a sharper eye and clearer lenses about three years ago I think. I went alone to Bulgaria, to Sofia. I didn’t think so, but I found myself in a city with architecture and customs far from my standards. Of course, I couldn’t resist taking pictures of everything. I collected a lot of street scene photos, and that’s when I started sharing content regularly on social media on my instagram account @mata_harie, and that’s where people started to taste it too. It’s still kind of an escalation.

What do you like about photography?

I am an extremely curious and thirsty person for knowledge. Unfortunately, like many people, I suffer from a certain social phobia or extreme shyness, which can easily be complicated when you want to get closer to people. Photography allows me to tame this handicap in a way. When I feel that the situation is favorable, I go to people and ask their permission to take certain photos, this sometimes provokes exchanges and nice discussions. Sometimes, of course, I don’t ask them, it allows me to capture raw moments or expressions. I also think that taking an interest in people, their faces and body expressions allows me to understand my own conduct. They serve as my emotional dictionary.

You have special motifs of random everyday situations and people which you put into your own special view. Tell me more about this. About the motifs and situations, the people and objects you photograph.

Yes, as mentioned before, I have focused a lot on people over the years, especially their faces, bodies especially hands. I do believe I have developed a certain fetishism for hands. I tried to figure out why too. I don’t particularly like mine. But all this seems to be psychiatric work. I think I’ve always been fascinated by my mother’s hands; Thin, pale, veiny. When I was younger, I think this slightly “ghostly” aspect must have scared me a little. Over the years, and with photography, I have looked at bodies differently. I started to find the beautiful marks, the veins and the reliefs worthy of interest and experiences. I believe that people think like me. I couldn’t photograph a very smooth hand, unless it has a particular gesture. Passive, she wouldn’t interest me. I am also sure that there is also a therapeutic work to accept the marks that will appear on mine as well.

The way you photograph and the kind of photos are often in black and white or shown with a darkness. But in a positive and interesting way. You highlight with little light some special parts of the photo, as well it gives it something mystical. Tell me more about it, how you do it and why you do it.

There is indeed something more enchanting about black and white when I work with it. I think that for this type of photo, more anatomical, it allows me to put my finger on some details. This gives easier access to various interpretations, or on the contrary, I give myself the opportunity to highlight a message and/or hide the obvious. The interest in photography in general is the meaning that we want to give it. I don’t necessarily want to direct the public to my own feelings when taking the photo, but if the latter adheres to it, I find a lot of satisfaction in it.

Tell me something about your equipment. Do you use cameras or the smartphone? And if cameras, which ones do you prefer? Do you also work on the photos afterwards?

Here we approach my biggest complex. I only take photos using my Huawei Nova smartphone. Certainly, there is a form of ease with this kind of tool, especially for novices like me, but it allows me in the context of street photography, to get closer to my favorite subjects. And then, I must admit, the world in which we live greatly favors things for me. People don’t see me. They themselves are so connected that they do not see me and offer their hands openly. But I’m not a psychopath. I don’t hide hands in my cellar :-). But my next step in 2022 is to have a pair of balls, I’m going to walk around with a life-size camera. I need challenges. This is one..

When I look at your photos I often have the feeling of honest privacy happenings. You have very touching photos and they show in some way average moments, but the visitor gets the feeling if it is a private secret situation, view or look of somebody you normally wouldn’t see. You make the normality of humans visible in a very beautiful way. What do you think about these words and my interpretation? 

I really like the vision you bring to my work. I think it’s fair enough. What I do is nothing very exceptional. These are just people I meet on my way around town or on my way to work. I don’t do war reporting. However, all these focuses, mainly on their hands, their gestures or expressions provoke a lot of emotions in the visitor. And in me too. You have to accept to see yourself as a voyeur, but for an honorable purpose such as paying homage to things invisible to the public, yet so beautiful and which accompany us until our death and make us unique and special beings.

I really like your description of the therapeutic aspect of you doing your photography art, because I think that doing art, works in general as a medicine. Everybody can make and do art. That doesn’t mean that everything from anybody is good or high quality art, but everybody can be creative. And being creative gives positive energy, it opens new doors and it is like a medicine. That’s my opinion. What do you think about that?

I completely agree on this point. It is not for nothing that if you go to a psychiatric hospital, and you stay there, you will find above all occupational therapy workshops, painting, pottery, cooking, etc. I will not claim that it cures entirely. If I have to talk about my experience (not yet in hospital ah ah ah), practicing an art form certainly brings me satisfaction if the end result is good, but the main thing, in my opinion, is to be able to focus your mind during the activity, on something that makes you feel good. As long as I’m on the street and focused on my goal of taking certain types of photos, I can’t think of anything. And this is the major interest of this therapeutic exercise. The more I go out for this purpose, the more likely I am not to brood over my misfortunes.

You said you are not a professional photographer or artist. But what does it take to be a professional photographer or a good artist? I think there are a lot of students who finished art school, they have a degree and all that, but they are just not creating good or interesting art. Some don’t have the feeling or the eye for it. And there are average people who never even went to any museum, but they are able to produce magnificent creations. I don’t think the quality or ability comes from just studying it. What do you think about this?

Of course, most of Genious come from Nowhere. But, it doesn’t matter if you do amazing things or not, if you want to go a little further, “sell yourself”, there is a certain legitimacy that you lack, and if you are not already very sure of your talent or your skills, it remains a bit complicated to find a place in the light. I have also realized in recent years by trying to expand my visuals a bit, it is the reactions of my friends who have studied photography or another form of art. I feel the compliment is sincere, but there is some caution or resistance to complimenting you too much. In the end, we operate in a very competitive world. I can also understand their reactions.

Where do you like to take photos? Tell us more about this. Do you have special places where you prefer to go? Or is it just completely random and everywhere? A lot of photos from you I have seen are from urban transports, like buses or trains. I think there the people just sit and wait, and they drift away in their thinkings. Those moments, those looks, they are very authentic. I see it myself as well here in Frankfurt in the tram. Also you have a lot of photos from open places with people doing funny things, but not big festivals, just some kids playing or two people clapping hands and laughing by heart. Tell us more about the places where you take photos.

Yes, as I mentioned in your questions, since I suffer from a bit of social phobia, it’s quite rare that I find myself in big events like a music festival. But I’ve been making an effort since I started taking photography seriously . On the other hand, I know my city, Lausanne, by heart, and I am beginning to know the places conducive to beautiful photos such as the play of light and shadow that I have a lot of fun looking for towards a very old bus stop. bus anchored in a church, named Eglise Saint-François. It’s a historic square in the city and one of my favorite places, with a nice café where I also sometimes make pretty hands Concerning portraits and hands, it’s true that my aquarium is mainly transport public. I don’t have a preferred line and I don’t take the bus to take pictures. I catch opportunities when they arise on my daily commute. And then, above all, I am rediscovering my city as I have lived there for 30 years and it is not that big!

Did you think about showing your photos more public in the future? Like in an exhibition. If it would be possible, would you like to do something like that? Maybe you don’t even have to be there if you don’t want, but would it be great have some of your photos in a gallery to watch them in bigger size. Maybe some very huge, some very small, altogether in a good composition. I really like following your new takes on Instagram and I often thought I would like to watch them on bigger scale, hanging somewhere on a wall and just sitting in front of them and observing. Do you have any plans for exhibitions?

I would love to and I am delighted that you are one of my first visitors!  Yes I would like to exhibit, because it would give another dimension to my photos and show them to people who are not on the networks, but who would nevertheless love my photographic point of view. I try to offer my photos in cafes in Lausanne, because there are many small cafes that organize events a bit like this. But because of the Covid, and the restrictions many of them are waiting for a few more people to organize events again, or they don’t like my work . In short, I’m waiting, but I’m sure it would be a great exhibition. A friend of mine ordered some photos from me to decorate her office, and frankly, when she sent me the photo, I thought, wow! it has dog!!!

How do the other people respond to your photos? I mean especially the people you photograph. You said, sometimes you ask them. So do you show them the photo later on? And what feedback did you get so far? I think if you would show me a photo of me the style you do it, that would be great and I would be very suprised in a positive way. I would be impressed by the authentic human image you captured of me. Have people asked you if they can have the photo too, or a printout of it?

No, for the moment, apart from the portrait of my friends, I have never informed people. Firstly because I don’t always feel very comfortable, but also because I very rarely publish frontal portraits. I try, when I publish to leave room for the discretion of faces. And then I don’t photograph with a camera, I think a lot of people, even if the photo is beautiful and puts them to their advantage, would not be ok with me keeping it, but if I make them too gift. Their image does not belong to me. And it is also for this reason that if I have the chance to make an exhibition, the too recognizable portraits will not be part of the first photos exhibited. I’m just waiting to see how the rest is received. However, faces, like this old man on the bench of my favorite bus stop, smiling to the fullest, I would find it a waste not to show how beautiful our world and those who are part of it can also be!

What would you like to tell other artists and photographers. Especially the ones who are not “super famous artists” and maybe even just started, but who love to photograph as well. We all get over spamed by the media pictures how we should be and have to be, who is beautiful and who is strong. So it is not easy to find the own way through that and a lot of good, talented artists stop being creative, because they think it is not good enough. I know it’s not true, you know as well. Because maybe the reality which they are comparing with is not theirs, so let’s change the game. Create your own one! Let’s motivate them!

All I can say is that, like many things, you have to do what you love for yourself, if you start doing photography or any other form of art so that people like it won’t work. From the moment we do not seek recognition from the outside, it is probably the first step towards a form of genius 🙂

MATA HARIE about her art: “My photos taken ‘on the run’ mainly represent street scenes, unexpected gestures and emotions. The natural is at its height. Individually, the photos evoke a memory, a feeling. Put end to end, they tell us a fable. ​ All photos are marked with respect and modesty. The main objective is not to throw subjects to the public, but to tell their stories”.



Website:  https://www.chroniques-paumees.com

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/mata_harie


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