GOLD WinnerFirst place in the series category of Let's Face It: 8 was given to Maria Konstanse Bruun with this highly personal series illustrating the photographer's own Mother's illness. The series chosen are part of an ongoing project, as Maria explained.
"The images entered for the competition were already in my portfolio. I am pleased with them and they mean a lot to me and, when I saw the competition theme, I thought I would enter them. I am thrilled to learn that others like them too."
The subject of the portraits is Maria's Mother, who is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. "With the photos I attempt to tell her story and portray some of her pain and feeling of loss over a life that didn't turn out the way she or anyone close to her had envisioned," Maria told us. "It is often hardest to really see that which is closest to you; working on this project has given me a certain distance to my mum and her situation.
The distance has provided me with the chance to see everything in a different light and eventually taught me new things about her and her situation. "The motivation behind the photos has been to put focus on her as a person and not as a patient. I find that our society still seems to suffer from a fear and lack of understanding around mental illnesses. The subject is concealed by many taboos. How come people buy you flowers or send you a card when you break a leg but not when you are breaking down?
"I think perhaps it’s the honesty and the vulnerability in the images that make them strong. Due to the nature of her illness my mum would never trust anyone else to take her photo. I was allowed to get this close to her and take these portraits. No-one else could have taken them."
Maria specialises in documentary, street and art photography and sees the portrait genre fitting into all of those categories. "I am intrigued by good portraits and see them as essential, but in my projects they are usually just one part of a story and not the whole story," she said.
Maria's academic background is a Masters Degree in Social Anthropology, which encouraged her great interest for observing people as part of a group or a culture. She is currently doing a part time Foundation Degree in photography at the Arts University College in Bournemouth. "The course gives me inspiration and pushes me to try new things," she said. "I believe I have to be open to continue developing my photographic skills and vision and I am very open to new projects; if I find something that interests me I am not fussy about what category or work area it belongs to."
Although most of Maria's work has been studio or location based family or corporate portraiture, she has some interesting stories to tell about commercial work. "I was commissioned by the Norwegian Peace Association to take photos which reflected their work and ideology, for them to use in campaigns," she recalled. "With a low budget, I had to engage friends and family as models. It ended up being proper hands on work: I knitted a peace sign for one shoot and made a peace flag out of old shirts for another. It was great fun and they were very pleased with the result."
Social media forms a central part of Maria's business and marketing plans, although she still values email as the most important form of communication for both personal and commissioned work. "It is all about branding and getting my work and name out there, and I believe we must all take advantage of the potential of social media," she said.
Maria is always working on several photographic projects, from personal conceptual art projects to documentary projects such as street photography ("a great passion and never ending project of mine"). As Mother to an 8-month-old boy, she is always on the look out for new ideas, which may lead to further exploration and projects. "Being a mum changes you as a person and opens new doors in terms of photographic and artistic exploration. My future plans are to keep my eyes and ears open, follow my instincts and see where it leads me," she said.
Find out more
www.mariakonstansebruun.com (personal projects)
www.shootlooseimages.com (commissioned work)