Interviewed by Gabriella Alziari
“Being an artist has taught me that no emotion or state, be it vulnerability, pain or happiness, is wasted.”
Romy Maxime is a fashion, portrait, and art photographer living between Cape Town, South Africa and Berlin, Germany. She graduated from the Wharton School of Business in Pennsylvania, and since then has committed herself to making thought-provoking and aesthetically compelling artwork. The following images are new pieces from her project, Everything was better Yesterday.
The project description: “I lay down, the wave of nostalgia flooding my chest, and I remembered everything as bitterly and beautifully as I could.”
This ongoing personal project was born out of nostalgia, a love for classic art films and the style and colours of photographs from the 1960s.
Tell us about yourself and your work.
I have always felt like an outsider. I completed a finance and marketing undergraduate degree at the Wharton School of Business in the USA where I felt like a misfit. I found refuge with my friends who were studying something random in the liberal arts. I was born with a severe cleft lip and palate and as a child has been a blessing in disguise for my interaction with people and my work. I’m a gypsy at heart. I currently live between Berlin and Cape Town and love to travel whenever I can for my work and for my soul. I draw a lot of my inspiration from old art house cinema and novels.
Describe your creative process.
Inspiration comes in all forms. People I meet, places I go, books I read and dreams I have, influence my work the most. I have a diary to keep track of ideas that would otherwise dissolve in my ADD headspace. Usually with a project it starts with a person or a story that has inspired me. Then I choose location and do most of the styling myself and decide on the lighting etc. So much is left up to the energy in the room on that day, in that moment, not just how I feel, but what my subject will give me or allow me. It’s a privilege.
How has being an artist influenced your life?
It’s a privilege. And looking back, it was something I knew I would be even as a child. I always wrote a lot, I always felt more emotionally complex.
I have tried multiple “normal” jobs and always felt this complete inner restlessness to the point that I cannot actually do anything else. Before I had this extreme emotional and spiritual constipation. Being an artist has taught me that no emotion or state, be it vulnerability, pain or happiness, is wasted. Luckily I feel too much anyway- emotion and empathy are the engines of art.
Do you tend to photograph women? If so, why?
Yes most of my subjects thus far have been women. I grew up in a household of mostly women and above understanding them, I am fascinated and in admiration of women.
To what extent does your relationship with a subject affect the success of your portraits?
Trust and being relaxed is everything. If I am calm and open with my subjects, they feel safe and trust me. For personal projects I need to get to to know my subjects and they need to get to know me, the more I share, the more they share. Funnily enough I think doing yoga has helped me a lot on focus and calmness, which affects my work.
What do you most enjoy about fashion photography?
It’s totally unrealistic! It’s the fantasy genre of photography – mostly an illusion with every excuse to include beautiful things. I do try to create some sort of story when I shoot fashion otherwise the clothes remain just beautifully cut textiles on a model.
Do your surroundings in Germany and South Africa influence your work?
Yes of course!
I grew up between Zurich, (where I was born), Cape Town and Cannes, so it has always been the movement between and contrast of the places I have lived that makes me love and appreciate each one for their special qualities.
In Berlin I have never felt so at peace. I love its culture of arts; it has so much diversity, history, and so much darkness and creative inspiration and I love the people I know in Berlin above all. Such beautiful souls I have found in Berlin.
Africa and Cape Town are my aesthetic havens for beautiful locations, golden light, open and deserted spaces, and endlessly happy weather.
What is one of the biggest challenges you have faced in your career (a certain project, an experience of personal growth…)?
Admitting to myself and my once highly dissuasive family that I cannot live without doing what I love, even if that means there are hard times. Keeping the balance between doing work to keep financially afloat and making art for your soul no matter what the cost.
How do you find being a woman in your field? Has it ever been difficult?
I love being a woman. There are some privileges that come with being a woman artist and those are: approaching people for portraits and projects are always gentler and less intrusive by virtue of being a woman. Other women don’t think you have ulterior motives or creepy agendas and working with women as a woman myself is only helpful. On the negative side: I cannot go to a lot of places I would like to go traveling as a woman alone, particularly in parts of Africa.
What advice would you give to aspiring women artists?
Befriend other artists and women you admire. Do not see them as a threat, but as a blessing and inspiration, because that is what they are. Believe in yourself, being a woman, an artist, and young can be a dangerous combination for self doubt. I am not one for political commentary but Hillary Clinton once said it was surprising to her how many young women think they have to be perfect and how rarely she meets a young man who doesn’t think he already is.
Use all your experiences with love, happiness and devastation and put it into your art. The world craves “real”, be brave and share your heart.
Are you working on anything currently?
Yes. I am currently working on a series that will be finished come the end of this year, as well as many other personal projects, in addition to some fashion work.