Spotlight #1: Hannah Mai


Today marks the start of something new: an artist spotlight at Bleaq! In a spotlight article I will combine a showcase of an artists work with a mini-interview. A full introduction to a talented artist you could say! The first artist spotlight is for Hannah Mai, a talented young photographer from the Netherlands. Enjoy!








Bleaq: Could you describe your work in one sentence?

Hannah Mai: My photographs are a medium to show my romantic and dramatic fantasies/views on life, often dark and emotional and full of imperfections, created with analogue techniques to accentuate the ambiance.






Can you tell about how you got into photography? What was your first camera?

My father was a photographer, but I can’t say he ‘got me into photography’, since he quit when I was still little. However, when I was about 14 years old, he gave me my grandfathers camera, which was a very modern one, and I had no idea what to do with that. I think it was 8 years later when I bought a digital camera and figured out the process myself. I had a very slow start. From that point it still took me a few years to actively start photography. From 2010 on I understood what I wanted and what the possibilities of creating images were. At the beginning of 2012 I got rid of my digital camera and grabbed the analogue camera of my grandfather again. Successfully this time. And now, because I’m so much in love with the antique photographic techniques, I use my great-grandfathers box-camera sometimes. So, maybe you can say it’s a family-thing ;). Maybe it’s nice to mention that my mother is a painter and I begin to see a lot of similarities between my photographs and her paintings. She has the same feeling for darkness, antiques and mysticism. Even though my photographs don’t look like her paintings, they share somewhat of the same ‘base’. While my father was a photographer endeavouring perfection, my mother is a painter looking for imperfections. You can say I’m a mix of them.






What inspires you?

I’m inspired by sadness, grief, darkness, pain and death. I don’t like to show a bright sight of life in my images, but rather my own dramatic view on life. To me, these emotions are romantic. I want to show the images that I have in my mind, my romantic fantasies. I can be inspired by things in the world outside of my mind, but the base of my inspiration is me and the way I see life, or the way I want to see it.








Who are your favourite artists? How do they inspire your work?

Photography wise: I’m a big fan of Ellen Rogers, Paulina Surys, Sarah Moon, Paolo Roversi. I see a certain sadness and darkness in their works, and I feel for that. But I’m also inspired by painters like Leonardo DaVinci, Rafael and Rubens. I enjoy their attention for detail and the mysticism in their work. Apart from these artists, I see so many images, read so many stories, and hear so much music that inspires me. It’s impossible to remember it all, but all together, it inspires me.






It’s probably like asking parents which of their kids they like best, but do you have a piece or pieces from your work that you like best? If so, why that one?

I’m critical towards myself, so in my ideal world, the last photographs I made should be the best. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen ;) I do have a special ‘thing’ with the series Royal Stardust, since they were my first analogue experience. Holding actual photographs (negatives) in my hand for the first time, was very special. But I also feel very connected to one of my last series ‘The life of Mary K’, which tells the story of Marietje Kessels, the sister of my grandmother’s mother. She was raped and murdered at age 11, around 1900 in Tilburg, by the pastor. A sensational story, especially for that time. This series was my first attempt to actually tell a ‘whole’ story, from beginning to end. If you know the exact story, you can recognise a lot of the elements in the images.





– ‘Royal Stardust’ series



– Fragent of ‘The life of Mary K’ series


With many social networking websites it’s almost hard to keep track of everything! How important is the internet for you as an artist?

It’s quite important, because the internet is the way to expose myself. I grew up in the digital era, so it’s all very natural to me. I’m aware of the disadvantages of exposing online (copyright problems), but I take them for granted, as I think they’re part of the ‘internet-deal’. Without the internet, showing myself to others would have been much more difficult. Next to that, I enjoy the connection with other creative minds: models, photographers, other inspiring artists. Unfortunately, time is an issue: making optimal use of the internet is very time consuming. At this point, I focus more on developing myself as a photographer, but I do realise that if I want more exposure, I have to be more active. Both online and offline.








Last but not least: van you recommend a book, movie or artist you’ve enjoyed lately?

I recently bought ‘Grosse Frauen der Bibel’ (Great women of the Bible), which gives a fascinating insight in the myths and stories of Biblical women. The stories are accompanied with art (especially paintings), which makes it very interesting for me. A great book if you’re interested in mystical, intriguing and often dark stories.



– Hannah Mai


Thanks for reading! I also want to thank Hannah Mai for taking time to answer my questions. If you want to see more of Hannah’s work you can take a look at her website. That’s it for Bleaq this week, have a lovely weekend!


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