Melisa Cola – The eccentric and fragments of the ordinary
#AnInterview – Melisa Cola is a Dutch photographer and visual artist based in Rotterdam. The fast and isolated city life has been a huge influence in her work. Combining subjects as isolation, identity, intimacy and escapism. She edits and layers vintage, old and new photographs into new visuals and collages, using 35mm format. She captures the eccentric and fragments the ordinary.
KALTBLUT: How did you discover photography?
Melisa: Ever since I could remember I’ve been both visually stimulated and confused by everything and could never sit still. I would draw on everything I could find, cut my clothes and make collages out of magazines.
I discovered my interest in photography by watching Le Mépris. I didn’t follow the storyline at all; I was just completely captured by the cinematography. The long shot of Brigitte Bardot lying on her bed was mesmerizing. When I was 13/14 I borrowed a camera, that didn’t have a film option, and started photographing continuous shots of still life and people interacting. I then spend hours behind my computer uploading the pictures into a shitty digital slideshow, to make it look like a movie. I was so proud. That experience taught me how to work with what I got and not let inconveniences stop me.
KALTBLUT: How has photography changed your world?
Melisa: The moment I started using a film camera, it changed photography for me. For a project, I went to hotel New York with my friend. I shot pictures of the rooms, the guests, people coming in and out of our room and it was so exciting for me, cause I couldn’t see or even remember what I photographed. I turned the bathroom into a darkroom by taping of the windows and developed the pictures there. I think 75% of them failed, but the ones that survived were pure and raw fragments of my memories of the night. By developing them myself, I felt like I crafted the pictures with my hands.
Since then I’ve sometimes used a digital camera, but the process just doesn’t really excite me that much. It got stolen earlier this year and I’ve made myself believe it’s a sign. I collect a lot of film cameras, but right now I only use a Canon EOS 300v.
KALTBLUT: What is your working process? And how do you choose the people you work with?
Melisa: There are certain themes that reoccur in my work. People call it sexual, but I prefer intimate. As a girl you get sexualized from a young age into adulthood and my work has been my way dealing with that. I recently went through a heartbreak that had me photographing and editing in overdrive. When I edit I print the photos immediately after every step, so I can get it of my screen and have a clear look. I was unconsciously working on my SATELLITES and NÙDES series. At one point I had 8 images in front of me, and I just naturally realized that I was done. The series were more then a concept, I was also dealing with my loneliness all together and it was a very vulnerable moment.
My favorite models to work with are dancers. Within the dancers movements the tiniest wallflowers flourish and come alive and I think it’s beautiful. I’m very sensitive in my work and I nurture whatever is made out of caring. People I work with know my work ethic. I can be a rollercoaster, but they know I get stuff done.
KALTBLUT: If you weren’t a photographer what would you like to be?
Melisa: I would probably move to a warm country and do pottery or teach yoga. But if I could not practice any creative skill I would do fulltime social work. Being an artist is already kind of an egocentric pursuit isn’t it? Most of the time I’m in constant dialogue with myself. No matter how lonely it can be I always remind myself that I am privileged to be able to do what I do. I question myself a lot. Life isn’t a “who’s a better person” competition, but I do want to spend my time giving back one day.
KALTBLUT: What do you wanna work on next?
Melisa: I am now working on a book of visuals I’m creating with my collaborator Marc Asmus Roderwijn. He’s an amazing make up artist, stylist and good friend of mine, who knows how to bring my fantasies to life. I’ve built my own little photo studio, and I scout the models myself. I have projects in development right now where I print on unconventional material. My work fits amazing on print, but I’m always searching for the next dimension I can add to a photo and bring my vision to life. I still have the same childlike curiosity and persistence as I had back then and it’s been my biggest strength.