Brazilian photographer Mika Moret wrestles with her identity and questions what exactly defines her in a striking series of abstract self-portraits.
In one way or another, 2020 took its toll on everyone. And for Ireland-based photographer Mika Moret, her mental health took the biggest hit. During this time, she questioned what exactly defined her, and in the process, she found bittersweet freedom that expressed itself through photographic self-portraits.
These images eventually became known as a series called Seeking. Radically different from your common selfie, these artistic images pushed the boundary of what a photographic self-portrait could be. "The photographs of this ongoing project are extremely intertwined with my identity, internal experiences and the healing process to get back to me," Mika tells Creative Boom.
For Mika, her interest in photography long predates the pandemic. She initially fell in love with the medium when her father bought her a small digital camera, and she soon became obsessed with the idea that she could use it to keep ephemeral moments alive forever.
"I started taking self-portraits over ten years ago to discover myself as a person," she explains. "Now I see photography as a way to know different parts of myself and explore my body. It helps me get in touch with a deeper level of self-love and self-worth. Photography helped me to be kinder to myself – I am now grateful for my body and what it allows me to do."
Fast forward to the pandemic, though, and Mika's self-love was being tested. "The first image of the series, "Untitled", was created when I was self-isolating in another country and I received the news that my father was in close contact during the start of the pandemic," she reveals.
"I was having a panic attack thinking of the worst-case scenario, and the only thing I could do to calm down was to take my phone out, make an improvised tripod and take photos to express all the confusion and fears I felt."
This impulsive snap marked a return of sorts for Mika, who had stopped photographing for a few years. Indeed, she mainly started to shoot again during the lockdown to keep her mind active. "I believe the lockdown influenced my photography in many ways; I had to learn how to be creative with whatever I had," she adds.
"A lot of the images from the series were taken in my room and, because of that, forced me to find different ways to express myself visually using the same elements I had access to."
It was only after a year of taking her new self-portraits that Meika struck upon the title for her series, Seeking. "I wanted something that would translate my feeling of looking for myself again after a hard period," she says.
"The name came from one of the first photographs I took after the months spent in Brazil looking after my mental health. I was feeling so much hope and joy in the process of coming back to myself."
This sense of optimism can be seen in the photos themselves, and in turn, it has transformed into pride. Images such as To Be a Woman have special importance for Meika as they go beyond self-portraiture conventions and tap into bigger issues.
"The image came as an answer to the rage I felt after reading different news stories about crime against women," she says. "I wanted to create an image to translate the disparity women have to live with our entire lives. We are taught to be ashamed of our bodies and still be seen as a desired thing for others to take whenever.
When I published the image, I got a lot of answers from people on how that impacted them. It was one of the first times I understood how my individual art could impact people around me; even though I work with self-portraits, I can use my body to translate other people's feelings and complications."
Besides this, the Seeking series has also taught Meika how to process her feelings more healthily, "it allowed me breathing space to go through complicated moments," she adds. "I think the series also helped me see my body from a new perspective. I face the changes my body is going through as I get older, too."
So far, the series has been going on for three years, and there is no plan to finish it. "It is a big part of how I understand life around me, but I want to expand my photography to other areas as well," Maika concludes.
"I would also love to exhibit the images in a physical form in the future, either in a gallery or a photo book, so I could materialise all these ideas and images in my head."