Mai Al Moataz’s photographs’ evoke genuine and unapologetic emotion. Her intricate work only emphasises her obscure talent. Her artistic sensibilities focus on the melancholy of daily surroundings. The core of her work is nostalgic and phantasmal. By means of her monochrome aesthetic, she simplifies and deconstructs profound emotions with a simple click of her camera.
So here’s to the #Monthofmai… A month that we at Too Far Co. are sure our audiences will enjoy. It was a pleasure to sit down with Mai and ask her nine questions. Which, incidentally, is her favourite number…
Q1. When did you first know that you wanted to be a photographer?
To be honest with you, I’m not exactly a photographer.
I use the medium to make photo-based work. I can operate cameras and produce prints of quality, as they should be, but I’ve moved away from that and started using the darkroom as a magic box to compose images, sentences, and series – my visual diaries.
Q2. Are you self-taught?
Yes, and no. I took a few classes over the years, which have put me on track, and the in between was a matter of persistence. What got me through, was the obsession with film, and using the darkroom as a place of solace from all the bad stuff out there. I always made it my number one thing to do, to find a darkroom everywhere I go, so I can process as well as print. It took me a long time to build my own set up.
On a more trivial level, I found it to be more engaging than any other thing to do, and so I did it, over, and over, and over, until I refined my aesthetic & somehow, I never got bored.
Q3.How do you educate yourself within photography to take better pictures?
I experiment, I explore, and I always go back even if I take a break for a while. Every now and then, I discover a new method or technique, or I’ll come across something that I end up obsessing over. Sometimes its a chair, sometimes its a person, and sometimes it’s something less tangible, like my feelings.
Q4.What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photos?
That it would only get better with time, and that it would become a primary mode of communication for me (it keeps me tame and sane) – I developed a visual vocabulary which was relieving, because I learned to express myself without saying a word. I wish I knew earlier on that it would’ve became me, and I, it.
Q5. Whose work has influenced you the most? Why?
Here are the characters that have inspired me over time:
Memory Number Two by Afshin Pirhashemi
Baron Von Fancy
Tasya Van Ree
Sarah Moon, Francesca Woodman, Camille Zakharia, Afshin Pirhashemi, Baron von Fancy, Hedi Slimane, Tasya Van Ree, and Eyemazing Susan.
For a multitude of reasons, mainly because I can connect with their work, visually, emotionally, aesthetically, as they all present something process-based and at it’s core lies obsession.
Q6. Why B&W (Black & White)?
I operate in monochrome, and my work is a direct extension of that.
I love the chemical process of B&W processing, and printing. I also love to focus on abstraction, rather than focus on color.
Q7. Would you say digital technology influences your perception or methods towards photography?
Everything needs to be digitized to be digested by the world today, so I guess in a way, yes for instagram and my website, but not really in my prints.
Having said that, my work is entirely analog – which is limiting, only because to share it with the world, there’s always a digital component involved. In terms of digital influence, I have to keep it in mind so that the work translates well – but I always feel the print ends up under rated online, given that my work is experiential in content and size, as well as frame.
Q8. When it comes down to your photographs, there seems to be a genuine presence of emotion. Would you agree to that? Why?
Thank you! There is, my work is a direct extension or visualization of my feelings. My feelings come out of my fingers. It’s just another mode of expression, a medium to channel through, and I always like to make beautiful prints even though their basis aren’t beauty (if that makes sense).
Q9. As cliché as this question may be, what is one piece of advice that you’ve received and have kept with you until this day?
Honestly, I always tell myself not to be so sad.