Martina Stapf: “The Body functions as a projection surface”

As many others I discovered Martina Stapf photographs first on Instagram and was instantly drawn to them. They are raw and in a way vulnerable, but this and the openness to express emotions and experiences so honestly is also what makes them powerful. Opening your heart fully for everyone to see is one of the most powerful things you can do and I think that is expressed beautifully in Martina’s photographs.

For the following I asked Martina if she wants to do an interview with me:

Luna Maluna Gri: Tell me a bit about yourself and your work

Martina Stapf: I am Martina Stapf, I’m an artist and photographer, living and working in Vienna. I am 30 years old and I studied fine arts at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and at the Friedl Kubelka – School for artistic photography. During my studies, I developed my own way of working with photography. In my artworks, I mainly use the human body as material. In addition to my own artistic work, I regularly work with performers, dancers, and visual artists. For me, this form of photography – the examination of the body as a medium – has become the main motif in my own artworks as well as in reproducing the expression of others: The body functions as a projection surface from inside and outside, dealing with all areas of social and physical relations when it becomes a product of them. We move in different patterns, identify ourselves through different actions, spaces and relationships, where a steady process of identification takes place. I actively work with the structures that we encounter in everyday life, the movements of the human body in relation to our environment and interpersonal contacts. I am interested in the relationship between humans, materials, and space.

Martina Stapf

LMG: How and why did you start photography?

MS: I actually can’t tell you how and when exactly it started – I don’t have that romantic story of becoming an artist. When I was around 16-17 years old, I discovered photography, I had a lot of fun with the camera and tried different things. I found out that this medium works best for me when it comes to visualizing my thoughts. I love the truth, directness, and the speed that comes with it.

LMG: What role does photography play for you?

MS: For me, photography is all about seeing things. I describe seeing, thinking, and visualizing them as my job. The technique of photography allows me a real fixation of thoughts, feelings, and moments. In my photographs, it is particularly important to me to not only display what is seen but also to understand emotions and motivations in order to continue them visually.

LMG: What is your experience with the art world?

MS: I perceive the art world as something that became really elitist in our society. The art is shown in museums and galleries still sees itself as high culture, and if “high” is used in the description of the culture, then it doesn’t satisfy my expectations and that is classlessness and the desire to reach all social classes. On the other hand, there are so many artists who are living on the breadline. The art world in my eyes, therefore, is really controversial.

LMG:  Is there something you want to change about the art world? If yes, what and why? 

MS: It would be exactly that, more possibilities for artists to be seen and heard for and the consumers. Away from something elitist to fair opportunities – art should not only be accessible to certain groups, it should go much further and be made tangible for everyone.

LMG: What do you think is/are the role/-s of artists and art in our society? 

MS: The artist has different tasks: to look critically at the time, to create discourse, to reach people, and to raise their awareness for different subjects. As artists, we have the unique opportunity to draw people’s attention to various topics through our very own language. Art is the soul of a society. It tells of people and their stories, it shows us different social discourses and dimensions. It is multifaceted and varied and therefore offers a common basis for understanding and discussion. It takes art to be open to new things and to stay in constant motion. These production processes thrive on an open discourse that can get through to all parts of society. Art is not tied to static constructions, it seeks independent dialogue.

Martina Stapf

LMG: What does your creating process look like?

MS: I have discovered two ways of creating that work really well for me: On the one hand there is a really intuitive way, where ideas come up impulsively and have to be accomplished immediately. Most of the time I have an exact picture in my head and this picture is then taken within a day – that process has to happen very quickly. On the other hand, there is the exact opposite way, where I first approach a topic theoretically with research and then go into the performance. As you can see, photography is very grateful for the way I work.

LMG:  What inspires you ?

MS: Mostly people and their thoughts. But also all kinds of impressions I receive daily. This ranges from visiting museums, the theater, reading to just taking a shower. Our surroundings, every day, are what inspires me.

LMG:  What artist/artists would you like to meet (dead or alive) and if you had one question what would you ask them ?

MS: Birgit Jürgenssen. She was an Austrian artist dealing with the female body and its ascriptions through painting and photography. I would have loved to have her as a professor at the academy – therefore I would have probably asked her a lot of questions.

LMG:  What does a normal creating day look like for you ?

MS: I am getting up early then driving to my studio and work there on the different projects and everything else that comes up during the day. Most of the days I stay there till the evening.

Martina Stapf

LMG:  What is something you can’t create without?

MS: My Idea-Book, a good black pencil and strong coffee.

LMG: Is there something you want to achieve in your art life? Dreams? Future plans? Or projects you would like to do?

MS: For me, it became more important to deal with the here and now and make every day as valuable as possible, and not to think too much about big dreams and what would be great. I am not saying that this isn’t a good thing to do! I could say one big wish is to be able to do what I love and what brings me joy for the rest of my life.

LMG:  Do you think there is something you can bring to this world through your work as an artist which you couldn’t in any other field of work?

MS: My art visualizes my thoughts and feelings. This is the way I found for myself to communicate. This is how I express what I want to say and that would not be possible for me in any other form. In art, everyone has the freedom to express themselves in their own way and doesn’t have to act according to certain rules – I appreciate that the most.

Coyright of first photo: Franzi Kreis

Copyright of all other photos: Martina Stapf

Instagram: martina stapf (@martinastapf) • Instagram-Fotos und -Videos 

Website: Martina Stapf 


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