At Because, it's been our mission to champion the brands that may have gone under the radar in the sea of stuff available to us. In light of what's been happening globally over the last few months, we've noticed this is needed now more than ever, and have been wondering how best to continue this. 

Hence the start of our latest feature, Pass the Platform, where we'll be sharing a selection of interviews who would have been picked by the interviewee prior, starting a thread and community of brands that are doing good within the fashion and beauty worlds. We hope this will bring attention to different voices that aren't always heard within these realms, as per our pledge to do better.

Nominated by Maya Njie, next up is freelance fashion, fine art and landscape photographer, Maria Lax.

We caught up with the London-based Finnish photographer on the early beginnings of her career and the impact COVID-19 has had on her work.

What made you become interested in photography?
I have always been passionate about arts but I studied politics and warfare strategy in university before starting photography – I really wanted to work in conflict management and for the United Nations. I think it was during that time I realised I might want to create more, and eventually ended up in film school. That’s where I learned how to use a camera and started taking stills. 

Your "Some Kind of Heavenly Fire" series is wonderfully dreamy and hypnotic. Could you tell us more about the project?
"Some Kind of Heavenly Fire" is a story about a small town (my home town) with a big secret. It explores a painful past and supernatural occurrences that happened in the 1960s and is a hugely personal project to me. 

I’m from a small town in Northern Finland surrounded by a vast, sparsely populated wilderness. Most pass through the town on their way someplace else without ever knowing it was a hotspot for UFO sightings in the 1960s. Unaware of this history myself, it wasn’t until I read my grandfather’s book that I learnt of the incredible stories of supernatural events, bravery and struggle against hardship in what is largely a barren land. Already suffering from dementia, he was unable to answer any of the questions I had so I went looking for the answers. I turned to the people who had seen the mysterious lights, to newspaper archives and my family’s photo albums from the era. The UFO sightings coincided with a time of great struggle for Northern Finland. People flooded from the countryside to the cities in search of jobs leaving abandoned houses scattered across this beautiful but harsh landscape. It’s no wonder that the UFO sightings embodied a fear of the future, the unknown and the inexorable shift in lifestyles and livelihoods going on around them. Some reacted to the mysterious lights with fear, some took them as a sign they were not alone.

How does your approach to photography change when you're shooting fashion and beauty versus nature and fine art? 
The basic approach stays the same, with my preferences for strong colours and interesting lighting. My fine art work I shoot for myself, but in fashion and beauty the client needs to be happy with the end result, first and foremost - so there’s a lot more dialogue when planning a shoot and the final look. I find that a wonderful part of the process because it pushes me creatively. 

Did 2020 influence or inspire any sort of change in your work? What changed, what didn't?
I did a few still life shoots at home, because I don’t have access to my usual studio during lockdown. I invested in a little home studio kit and it is actually wonderful to shoot at the comfort of your own home by yourself. I love getting crafty and figuring out how to create new worlds and sets in my own dining room. So I think going from vast landscapes and portraits to still life has been the biggest change so far. 

What can we expect in 2021?
I am starting the work on my next book - something quite different in style and location than Some Kind of Heavenly Fire. Because of travel restrictions I can’t go to the shoot locations, so again it’s definitely time to get creative and figure out how I can keep working on the project with the pandemic ongoing. And there's some more exciting commercial work coming out soon, too. 

Learn more about Maria Lax here

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Pass the Platform | Maya Njie

Pass the Platform | arva

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