Joy Molan meets the German Peppermint Diaries photographer to talk nudity, the male gaze and #calvins
I first saw Annika’s work on Instagram. For a site awash with carefully constructed images of aspirational lifestyles, her work stands out as refreshingly raw and visceral. “I despise all these lifestyle photographs that try and tell us that all we need is an all-white Ikea bedroom and faux fur to lie on in #calvins,” Annika explains.
Instead of hiring models for her shoots, Annika prefers to work with people she knows and has a close bond with: “I cannot see myself writing to one of those models on Facebook and then just meeting one and taking photos together. I want to see whether there is a bond, whether we’ve got the same views, whether she gets what I am doing”.
This shared understanding between artist and subject, combined with Annika’s strict policy of no retouching, makes for honest and intimate work. The men and women in Annika’s photos look like they could be a close friend or your first love from school. The partial or full nudity of her work is not sexualised or designed to titillate, but rather focuses on the private and often overlooked aspects of our bodies.
Annika photographs the body in what she calls “an absolutely natural composition”. Her motivation is simply the curiosity to create something different and interesting; something she achieves by encouraging a playful and un-sexualised context for her models. “I like my models to grab their boobs and move them around. Boobs are more than objects of desires. They are also just body parts and a woman can do with them whatever she wants,” Annika explains.
Her most recent series, inspired by the Placebo song Scared of Girls, focuses on women at peace with themselves. Annika’s admiration for these women shines through, as she tells me: “they all have something in common, they stand up for themselves, they’ve got attitude and power to be just the way they are. They are comfortable with their sexuality and with their bodies and their minds”.
In her current project, Annika hopes to subvert the prevailing male gaze of nude photography by focusing a female lens on the male form. “I find men are not portrayed and documented enough,” she tells me, “everyone is so used to seeing nude girls and women and no one is interested in seeing ordinary men. They are beautiful, too. They are just as sensitive as us girls”.