“I’ve always been inspired by the women in my life. I see female friendship and female togetherness as something unique... It’s very difficult to explain and that’s why I try to photograph it.” Photographer Melissa Schriek’s artistic direction is primarily focused on exploring how people –specifically women– relate to their environment, themselves and other people.
Melissa traces back her fascination with photography to a primary school field trip where her father had given her a disposable camera. She spent the day focused on composing her photos, directing her classmates in front of carefully selected backgrounds. Noticing her interest, her father then gave Melissa a small point-and-shoot digital camera to encourage her to continue photographing her life. For most of her school years, photography “was more of a way of making memories than making art.” The act of taking photographs was more important than the actual end-product at that time.
Entering the Royal Academy of Art The Hague marked a turning point in Melissa’s approach. Instead of strictly portraying reality, she became interested in discovering a world between truth and fiction. She began intensely exploring the relationship between the sculptural nature of bodies and their environment. Melissa drew from her body awareness that she developed in past dance and gymnastics classes to reframe her perspective on movement and form. In her graduation project, she draped bodies in different poses around the city to examine how bodies relate to their spaces. From here on onwards, Melissa concentrated on the performative staging of her models in -mainly- the public space, choosing to work with people who want to actively explore the boundaries of bodies as well as the body’s ability to communicate through gestures. Despite the dreamy, surreal quality of her work, she maintains that the core of her work is human stories and photographs must still look like a scenario that could happen.
When asked about her process, Melissa emphasized the importance of experimenting. Whether she is trying something new to refresh her practice or trying to sharpen her existing abilities, she believes that “you learn by doing something new and not being afraid to fail and at some point, you just understand it.” Typically, Melissa juggles multiple projects and intuitively drops projects that become uninteresting or best suited for another time.
There are many things that inspire Melissa to take photographs such as the works of other photographers (e.g., Viviane Sassen, Paul Kooiker). Lately, she is inspired by surrealist paintings. Still, a lot of her inspiration comes from daily life; how people walk, dress, move, interact with each other. “Very mundane objects I can find interesting and hyperfocus on.”