A chat with Berlin-based street photographer Marga van den Meydenberg…
Marga van den Meydenberg is a Berlin-based Dutch photographer. After spending two long summers in Berlin, where she developed her street photography, she moved permanently to Berlin in 2012. Before that she worked on many social projects and worked at Rotterdam’s Photo Academy…
What got you started with photography?
After high school I really wanted to go to the Art Academy. Since I wasn’t sure about my drawings kills I decided to do a photography course, to learn more about analogue photography. Although that in the beginning I wasn’t really good at it and discovered I totally loved it!
Did you study formally, and if so where/when?
I started at the Art Academy in Breda, but after three years I quit because I couldn’t find my way into photography. I decided to study Media Art (a combination of photography, film and digital art) at the Art Academy in Groningen, where I graduated in 2001.
On your website, you quote Elliott Erwitt: “Photography is about finding something interesting in an ordinary place”. Do you have a secret on how to catch these interesting moments?
Be patient and get lost in the city! It’s almost like meditation. I have to be clear in my head and be totally focused…sometimes I truly believe I’m invisible. Only then am I able to see and catch those moments.
How are Berlin’s streets different from other cities you know?
Berlin is a big capital with a lot of different neighbourhoods that you can reach by bike, and that makes it interesting for me. And of course there are a lot of tourists acting funny and doing weird things. But in the end I think that all big cities could be interesting.
Your street photography is mainly about people. How do you reconcile the respect to people’s privacy and the objectives of your art?
Respect for people is a high priority in my work and a big smile can do a lot. But if I feel that people don’t want to be photographed I stop and go away. If they get angry, I explain what I’m doing and try to have a nice conversation. If that doesn’t work I’ll just simply delete the photo, but that doesn’t happen very often. I always try to photograph people with their faces turned the other way, but off course there are photos where you can see faces…that’s a risk I take. It only happened once that someone recognised herself in a photo. She was a bit upset but we had a good talk about it and in the end I took the photo out of the collection.
Practicing street photography must bring a lot of funny and interesting stories. Could you share your favourite one?
My first summer in Berlin, in 2010, was really hot. I was in Prenzlauerberg and everyone was like zombies. In the Oderbergerstrasse, the Feuerwehr decided to give the people some refreshment by opening up their fire hoses. It was wonderful to see how everyone responded, happy as kids, running around and getting wet. And although it’s not good for your camera, I started to make photos and found it a really magical moment.
What are your current and future plans with your photography work?
Since 2010 I really got into street photography and I love it. I hope to continue doing that the rest of my life. I would like to do more assignments and show my work in magazines and exhibitions. At the moment you can see my work hanging at Fenster61 in the Torstrasse 61. I’m also working more on portrait photography where I try to show the same kind of humour and weirdness as you see in my street photos.
You sell your photography from a “bike shop” at some of Berlin’s flea markets. Is it a successful way to sell art? Who buys it, tourists or locals?
Yes. Last year I brought my grandfathers old transport bike from Holland to Berlin and built it into a bike-shop. It’s a beautiful way of showing your art to the public – tourists and locals alike! You almost immediately get direct feedback on your photos and it is nice to see a lot of different people reacting to your work…sometimes they start laughing out loud! It feels like an honest way of selling my art, which is really satisfying.
At which flea markets we can find you?
When it’s not raining you can find me on Saturdays at the Neukoellner Stoff Art market at the Maybachufer, and on Sunday at the Nowkoelln Flowmarkt (also on the Maybachufer) or Kreuzberg Flowmarkt in the lovely Prinzessinengarten. All in Kreuzberg/Neukölln, basically.