Born in Hamburg in 1971, I am a German photographer whose approach to photography is rooted in my fascination for literature and storytelling as a means of rising to challenge, living with change and showing compassion with humanity’s and my own vulnerability.
Originally, I studied literature and linguistics to become an editor in a publishing house. My Master’s thesis in American literature explores the "Grotesque Worldview and Mythical Consciousness in Selected Works of American Poetress Sylvia Plath" (1999). With the birth of my daughter in 2001, I left the world of literary publishing and worked as a freelance non-fiction author. The experience of motherhood has intensified my enduring interest in storytelling. During my four-year-stay in Switzerland, I began to rediscover my ambitious delight in photography while documenting my three young children. Finally, aged 42, I decided to study part-time in the degree program (B.A.) „Photojournalism and Documentary Photography“ at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Hanover, Germany. I also participated in photography workshops with Darcy Padilla, Rob Hornstra, and Vanessa Winship at the Centre National de l’Audiovisuel, Luxembourg. As a visual author I feel indebted to the documentary tradition and its ethics, but at the same time I pursue a modern subjective approach through in-depth-engagement with my subjects.
My longterm work focuses on health challenges like the impact of Alzheimer’s disease on the emotional landscape of caregivers, Farewell Sonata (2014-2015), and affected individuals, Portrait of an Artist as an Old Man (2016-2018). With All This Love (2017-) I explore the underrepresented topic of eroticism and sexuality in old age couples.
All three works have been internationally recognized, among others by the Wellcome Photography Prize (Wellcome Trust), British Journal of Photography’s Portrait of Humanity Award, and Photo Oxford Festival in the UK, Critical Mass (Photolucida) and Feature Shoot Emerging Photography Awards in the US. Currently I live with my family close to Bremen in northern Germany.
Mirja Maria Thiel
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