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Pic of the month: Marlena Waldthausen

3 months ago

© Marlena Waldthausen, Germany, Shortlist, Professional competition, Portfolio, 2022 Sony World Photography Awards

Every week we share one of our favourite images from the most recent edition of the Sony World Photography Awards and explain why we love it. At the end of every month, we share those weekly pics on our Stories, asking you to vote (or 'Like') for your favourite. September's winner is Marlena Waldthausen, a photographer shortlisted in the Portfolio category for her strong selection of single images she's taken over the last three years. The submission comprises stills from personal projects and assignments while representing the topics she gravitates towards and her overall visual signature. Based in Berlin and Amsterdam, Marlena works on assignment for national and international media. In her personal projects she intimately explores gender and power relations. We put the talented photographer in the spotlight...

Your winning photograph is of Aeshnina Azzahra. Can you share the story behind this image? How did you meet the young activist and how did the concept for this particular portrait come about? 

This portrait was a spontaneous idea. When Aeshnina told me that the hotel where we met (and where she was staying) had a pool and that she loves swimming, I thought it could be nice as one of the topics she campaigns on is clean water. I didn’t expect her and her parents to agree but they all loved the idea. I first shot from the edge of the pool, but ended up getting in the water as it gave me a better angle. I held the light with my left hand, my camera with my right, to try and not get either of them wet. It was a really fun and heartwarming encounter.

You were shortlisted in last year's Professional competition in the Portfolio category, what advice do you have for photographers thinking about submitting their work to this category? 

Don’t overthink your submission and see it as a nice opportunity to go through your work from the past three years. 

You picked up a camera because…

I love the universality of photography: the fact that pictures don’t depend on languages to be understood and that they are understood intuitively. I love working as a photographer because the camera opens so many doors, meaning I meet so many different people giving me the chance to tell a part of their story.

Who or what has been the greatest influence on your photography?

There are several things that had a great influence on my photography. There are some photographers and specific projects like Alessandra Sanguinetti´s Guille and Belinda and then there are photographers like Daniel Rosenthal. I had the pleasure to have Daniel as a mentor for my first long-term project where I documented two deaf and blind twin brothers. Daniel encouraged me a lot while I was developing as a photographer.

Also, the networks that I belong to, like Women Photograph and my local network of female photographers in Berlin, are very inspiring and supportive.

What characteristics do you need to become a photographer?

I don’t think there are special characteristics you need as there are so many different ways to be a photographer. I think it’s more about finding the photography that fits you. A shy person will feel comfortable in different situations to an adrenaline-loving individual. What you need is the love for photography.

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