Award-winning Auckland-based food and lifestyle photographer Manja Wachsmuth’s work is direct, evocative, and beautiful. Behind the seeming simplicity of her vivid images is an artistic narrative that underscores both her professional and personal projects.
Over the past few years, the latter have become more of a focus for Manja whose experience of the pandemic meant interrupted ties with family and friends in Denmark. It also presented the opportunity to delve into subject matter she hadn’t previously explored — topics as diverse as food security, geographical distance, and maternal mental health.
Often using food as the starting point, Manja’s latest collection, Burst, is no different. In response to an exhibition call by Women’s Work on ‘The Shape of Things’, Burst considers the changing form of fruit when smashed. “What is the shape of things when they shatter and smash?” says Manja.
Prior to starting this series, she had travelled to visit family and friends in Demark after an absence of about four years due to the pandemic. “It was tough getting back to New Zealand. I felt heartbroken, angry, split. This work came about as an answer to some of those feelings; I felt like smashing things.”
This personal and emotional approach to image making has been a healing and provocative consideration of life — and politics — for Manja. A few years ago, in response to another submission prompt, The Bug Project was born; a series of images that weave the unexpected into the every day.
Fine dining with edible — and non-edible — insects, a subject that was highly topical in global conversations about food security around 2019 when she started the project. “At first look, they seem like beautiful plates and recipes. On closer inspection, the bugs are the hidden heroes.”
Another recent series of work, Maternal Mental Health (pictured above left), is a collection of moments — an articulation of the struggles of a new mother. “I created this project as an answer to some of the stigma I felt around postnatal depression.
“These projects have been a way of processing things; creating a series of images makes you think about things in a different way. It’s a very rewarding experience.”
Burst was recently exhibited in Auckland as part of The Shape of Things, an exhibition by Women’s Work incorporating the work of 32 female photographers.