On the chance of the publication of the Plastic Sushi calendar, highlighting the environmental issue of plastic waste’s presence in the oceans, we talk to Marisa Papen. The peripatetic, ocean loving Belgian has teamed with nine international photographers and with sessions taking place in nine countries. William Blake wrote in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell “the nakedness of woman is the work of God” and Marisa certainly does the quote justice.
Interview by Demetrios Drystellas
Describe Marisa in three words.
Which place do you call home?
There’s a lot of places I love on this planet but I haven’t found home yet.
How would your ideal shoot be?
Intense, not too long, a little funny, maybe some awkwardness. Every shoot is different and that’s what I love about it.
What do you love the most about modelling?
I don’t really see myself as a model. I don’t model anything.
I’m just being myself and it gets photographed.
Maybe some day I can be somebody else, as in a way of acting but for now being myself is quite fulfilling 🙂
It is obvious that you are very comfortable with your body, were you always so and which were the feelings during and after your first nude shoot? Were you always this comfortable, or was it gradual?
My mom always tells me how I loved running around naked in the garden when I was a kid, so yes I guess it’s always been there.
Then your body starts to change and it takes some time to mentally grow into it as well. Once that happened, I went back to basics 🙂
What would you do if you knew you could not fail?
I don’t believe in failure. Everything happens for a reason.
Are there any personal traits of yours which you think might annoy people?
I do have a strong character and I’m sure I’ve stepped on some people’s toes in the past but there’s a lot of toes in this world. I can’t avoid them all…
What one little-known fact about you would perhaps come as the biggest surprise to people who think they know you well?
I might have to go to jail.
You rose very quickly in Instagram popularity, yet the medium shut down your account.
I’m pretty sad about the fact skin is seen as offensive.
There’s a lot to say about this matter and I would love to unfold my thoughts but I might wanna keep this for another time.
I do think social media offers great possibilities but at the same time, it’s also a big fake bubble.
In primitive societies, where nudity is the norm, it ceases to be intimate and sensuality is expressed in a myriad of different ways, as body modifications, elaborate mating rituals etc. In the “advanced” world, the body is covered and nudity is equated with intimacy and regardless of your intentions, some may still consider you a sexual object. Your thoughts?
It’s all about the perceiver’s perspective. For me, nudity is the best way of connecting with nature and with yourself. I don’t see any harm in being nude, on the contrary, you literally throw off your mask, nothing that protects you.
For me, people who are afraid of nudity are insecure and afraid of themselves.
A guilty pleasure?
You were quite at ease rollerskating (among others) for the Donn Diaries. Is acting something that you consider pursuing?
If it would come along my way, why not. I think I’d enjoy it a lot for sure.
You recently launched a sex toy for women, would you like to speak about the process and the thoughts behind its inception?
It was a super impulsive project. It was fun!
Do you think modelling changed your personality?
Somehow for sure, just like every experience changes you a little bit.
Do you prefer the beauty idealism that retouching offers or raw realism in the way you would like to be depicted?
Raw and real.
Judging from your diary, you love to write. Do you have any plans that involve writing?
I guess so, I love to express myself and writing is always very challenging for me. To get my thoughts aligned and able to pen down them down.
Best piece of advice ever given to you?
You only live once?
How would you define beauty, and are there any occasions where this feeling of beauty captivated you?
For me, my grandmother embraces beauty in every form. She’s graceful, she’s always true to herself/to her ideas, she’s incredibly natural… I can’t stop looking at her when we’re spending time together 🙂
Almost all of your images are shot in either nature or in indoor locations and an absence of studio is observed. It is a conscious choice or did it just happen?
I did some studio but indeed not a lot. A studio doesn’t really inspire me, there’s not a lot of corners to explore, setting up lights takes a long time… I prefer to work with the sun.
Any interesting/funny encounters from shoots?
Well, actually, my last one in Minorca with Nicolas Guérin.
We decided to take a trip to Minorca to shoot the last picture for my Calendar (which you should certainly buy!) [calendar website] The first day we arrived, we took it slow. Sitting in front of the fireplace, drinking some wine, eating some cheese. The second day we decided to do some prospecting, we drove all the way up to the North to check out some spots, very quickly we found a little corner we loved.
Back to the house, fireplace again, cheese again, wine again…
We woke up and we were totally ready to visualize our ideas, we drove all the way back to the North.
The Ocean was much wilder today. Nico and I had a hard time hearing each other because of the sound the waves were making while crashing against the rocks.
I climbed all the way down the rocks so I’d be in the shade and Nico would should the images from a little higher up. Before even the first image was taken a big wave smashed us down. Nicolas was soaking wet, including his camera. My ass, leg and hand were bleeding heavily. We looked at each other and had to laugh. We both had the same determination in our eyes, this picture would be made, right here, today!
So we did it.
My ass is this healing, Nico’s camera is still broken but for me, it was all worth it.
Your favourite location to shoot?
What is your favourite journey?
One that takes place in my mind and I put into reality
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I wouldn’t change a thing
What are Mush and the Island way of life?
It’s a mindset. It’s a way to be happy wherever you are. Your mind is the Island and you can build it however you like.
What is your most treasured possession?
I’d say, my family, friends, cat but they’re not my possession so I’d say my memories.
Where would you like to live?
There’s a lot of places I haven’t seen yet but I wouldn’t mind living on Hawaï for a little bit 🙂
What do you do on your free time? Any particular interests?
I cook. I love to cook, I cook A LOT!
Is there a talent/superpower you would you like to have?
Flying would be nice. Would save me a lot of time boarding etc.
What would you do if you were invisible for a day?
I’d go into houses and have a look what goes on behind these brick walls.
The four agreements [amazon]
I love all kinds of Music, literally everything.
Recently I’ve been listening a lot to Frank Ocean [wikipedia].
What makes you happy?
Being in nature, discovering new cultures, creating art, cook…
There’s a lot…
How would you like people to perceive you?
I don’t really care, everyone can choose for themselves…
What should we expect to see in the future?
In the near future, this Calendar [website], of course. It’s about the pollution of our Ocean and all the problems around it. It gave me a lot of joy working on something with a good cause, so I might keep walking that direction for a bit 🙂