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In conversation with Maria Bodil

Inspiration is everywhere and Maria Bodil are determined to capture it

Over the past year(s), Glamcult, like every other artistic outlet, has faced challenges. However, when facing these challenges we found great friends and uncompromised talent along the way. Learning to think differently from the pre-covid equation meant the aggravation of an age of discovery, seeking new talent, and new ways of producing. One of these talents is the Amsterdam-based duo Maria Bodil. Featured in our COMING HOME ISSUE, the creative duo made up of Marthe Bodil Vos and Lieve Maria Eek, are reinjecting life back into fashion photography. I spoke with the *behind–the-camera* cover women last year post-issue-release to discuss their creative backgrounds and the crossroads of design, film, and photography they encompass. Offering a start-to-finish creative service, I was curious to see how the duo approaches their projects, and with a cross-disciplinary point of view they fill me in on their highly unique perspective.?

Hey Guys! So nice for us to finally all be sat in the same room. It was so great to work with you on The COMING HOME issue. Though a little while ago now, do you still feel like fresh faces on the scene?
Lieve: Oh, we feel really new in the scene. We only started around just over a year ago now…Of course, it’s not like we started photography a year ago, but that’s when we just officially started working together.
Marthe: That was when we first put our ingredients together. 

That’s sometimes the most precious moment of the creative process.
Marthe: Yeah, I had always photographed small things from a young age, about 14 on. Though, it was like yeah okay, how does a camera work or whatever back then?
Lieve: But since our studies, we now know what it is we like.

That’s what it’s there for. So, what did you guys study?
Marthe: At AMFI. I started going down the management route, but I didn’t really like it. So afterwards, I transitioned moreover to the branding side of things. In the end, I graduated, but also did photography and visual cultures at AMFI. And now Lieve she teaches there!

Wow, that’s so full circle.
Lieve: It was after leaving Willem de Koning that I was creating concepts for brands, where the photographer produced the pictures, I did the concept and somebody else visualized it. I remember being so jealous because it was my idea and I want to execute it.

You wanted that Goldust…
Lieve: Yeah, of course! I was working with film directors that had way more experience than I had. But still, I was like – I want to do this.
Marthe: So that’s a little bit how the idea grew. We want to be able to think about the concept, but also be able to think about the execution. Then everything just fits together.

There is so much mono-thinking, but so much more clarity when a project from its conception is in the hands of people who are truly passionate about it – those who see the full vision.
Lieve: This is the pattern that we are trying to kind of break out of. I think you guys are really quite ahead of that because nowadays, everyone wants the full package.
Marthe: Yeah, and then they say to us like you’re expensive. Like no, we’re not expensive. You have an Art Director, Photographer and all these people in one… or two!

The triple-threats of the photography world ha-ha.
Lieve: We will also try to find the stylist. Anna Claassen often helps us. 

She’s amazing. Anna has styled two Glamcult covers in a row now…
Marthe: Yeah, she’s so nice, and she has actually joined our studio.
Lieve: It can sometimes be hard to find a good match. We really have a particular style. You know, working with different stylists and searching to find the right match was hard. But I think Anna is it.
Marthe: But also, you have to find a match with someone who also just started. We can’t work with someone really big and just say like, oh, we don’t have a budget or something like that. It’s nice to grow together.

…And hopefully, with a budget at the end 😉 I find it quite interesting that you both come from quite a commercial background to now pushing such cooperative, collective art-making.
Lieve: Yeah, my course was a totally different education to what we are doing now. In advertising, everything shakes to the rhythm of wall street.
Marthe: But our work is, in some ways, in between. We know how brands work, but now, we are able to explore this concept a bit more creatively.

I have to say, working with you, it was unbelievably beneficial that we were on the same page with this. There’s an end goal, that collectively we can stay focussed on. Not always a skill in everyone’s toolbox…
Lieve: Yeah, we try to make our own way of doing things. And then try to make this fit with, for example, Glamcult.

So when you guys first came together what was the moment you realized it was a match made in heaven?… What was that shoot?
Marthe: It grew very organically. We both graduated and at our graduation, we both assisted each other on shoots. Back then, it was either your project and I was in the back or the other way around. We always worked together, but not with one another.
Lieve: I remember putting so much of my energy into her project. Things were never mine or hers, as she also had a lot of influence on my set. 

Would you say you guys have a similar skill set when on a shoot? Or, are you both bringing something different to the table?
Marthe: I think we have very different skill sets, but also a lot of similar ones. On shoots, we usually photograph together or we alternate between the two of us. We are both really visual thinkers, but approach a concept or image from a different point of view. I think if we would describe our differences, I would say that I am looking for some sort of balance or harmony within an image, while Lieve is focusing more on the emotional value it has. 

And it’s both of these elements that form your joint identity. From big momentous moments to the most intricate details, all united by an undeniable crispness.
Marthe: This crispness is something we really strive for. All of our images are digital and really really sleek, but within that, we also want to make something that feels a little more, more instantaneous right now.
Lieve: Exactly. Real, but in a way, surrealistic. Surrealistic realness or something. It would also be really nice to have a shoot with aliens or something, where you really feel the love and the intimacy. So that you can really relate to those aliens. I think it’s really simple to photograph a 14-year-old girl with her Mom and make it intimate. But we want to do something new, this is the soul search we are on.

I get the impression that with every shoot you wish to push the boundary you created in the last. Often you’re critical of your own work.
Marthe: Yeah, but sometimes I think we should be more content. We’re both perfectionistic. We finished a project and we’re still questioning the blue of the sky or whatever!
Lieve: My parents always said we should be happy with it!

Well, who can argue with them?
Marthe: Yeah, they’re like, but Marthe it’s nice! And then I’m like, yeah yeah it’s nice. And then the next time I’m looking at the hand detailing thinking “Oh no this looks ugly”.

Marthe: Really. But we need to work on it. Recently our agent said, “Okay girls, you have this amount of time and you can’t survive commercially if you take so long for each project”. So we need to learn to make choices (and be confident with these choices). But since starting, we have already become way more confident in ourselves and our work.

Being young women within the fashion space or the art space or the photography space. It can be really hard to de-educate your mind to question yourself all the time. What’s wrong? Is this what the audience wants? And is someone else doing it better than me?
Marthe: Right? I feel like naturally, I have always criticized myself my whole life, pushing myself to always work harder, and now I think, why?

I also think it’s the digital landscape. We all feel the pressure to produce as much content as possible. We are losing the momentousness of art… but also, weirdly gaining it? The concept of clout/virality etc. This is why I love print so much.
Marthe: I also feel like this. It’s so weird, once we looked at an image the whole day, changed the colours, edited back and forth and finally the image at the end was great, once you post it online it’s gone. It’s weird. And that’s it. It goes into an ocean of thousands of images.
Lieve: We have been thinking about ways we can do things differently. Make things more physical. Sculptural pictures in a way…

Have you had an exhibition as of yet?
Lieve: We had our first exhibition at the PAN last year and that was really nice! And next week we’re showing work at UNSEEN. Alongside this, we’re also planning our own exhibition in 2 months which we’re really excited about!

Better than any Instagram fee that’s for sure (unless you’re Kim K), how do you find the platform’s current art flow, or more realistically, algorithm? 

Marthe: There is an undeniable power to Instagram. Brands are doing shoots in a square format so that they fit into the frame. I think it’s really weird. But that’s also a choice, right? I see so many creative directors who just post every day on Instagram and gain so many followers because of that. They often are good. But we don’t have the kind of work where you can post every day.
Lieve: We talk a lot about that internally because I personally don’t think we need to do this. When the quality of your work is good people will see it.  

Oh for sure. You’ve got to remember that the media is changing at such a rapid paste. At one point Facebook was the hottest thing.  I mean people say print is dead, but the Maria Bodil COMING HOME cover seemed pretty alive to me!
Marthe: We were so happy about the cover. He’s beautiful.
Lieve: We work with a really nice casting director, Michiel van Maaren, who is also a really good friend of ours. His vision for models is super fresh, which is how we found Ranchillio. For that shoot, and thinking about the theme, we wanted to ensure there was a diverse cast, not just in terms of skin colour, but in a sense to have all different types of people. The theme amplified this; showing how different people have perceived the last two years.
Marthe: As image-makers, you need to think about who you want to put in the picture and why. Mostly we just choose intuitively. You have to do it naturally because if you don’t do that, it becomes very unreal very quickly, it looks like the typical campaigns you see everywhere.

So many people connected in a really deep sense to that cover. I have a strong feeling it’s on a lot of mood boards haha. Is there anyone you guys look towards for inspiration?
Marthe: We always try to look towards different disciplines. Design, 3D, art, sculpture, architecture and so on. It is interesting when you are able to combine these art forms because that is when something new happens. If you are only able to look at photography, you can only recreate it.
Lieve: We are very multidisciplinary when it comes to inspiration. There is inspiration everywhere.
Marthe: I think it is important to be this way. 

Definitely, working off emotional triggers as opposed to visual ones is where new life is created.

View more from Maria Bodil here

Images courtesy of Maria Bodil

Words by Grace Powell