Leo Maki: You Do You And I Do Me

Artist Leo Maki

Words Tom Czibolya

We’re in love with the work of Warsaw based photographer and video maker Leo Maki. We already featured his beautiful self-portrait series Code Blue here, but we just cannot get enough of his colorful photographs. So we asked for more – and Leo delivered. He sent us an exclusive selection from his Guys N Stuff series. And if that isn’t enough for you, we also had a lovely chat with him about his work, his style, inspiration in Corona times and about Narcissism, our Love Of The Month.

Let us finish this short introduction with a beautiful quote from our little interview: “I think, as a society, we need a perception change. There’s too much judging and not enough appreciating.” We love. And we hope you enjoy reading the full interview below.

“I think, as a society, we need a perception change. There’s too much judging and not enough appreciating.”

How are you? What was the last thing you did before you sat down to answer these questions?

I’m working hard all day every day. I was suppose to be answering those questions in a train, but I took a day off from everything, first time in a while. It’s 10AM, I just made myself coffee, put some music and sat on the couch. Let’s say it’s a day for myself.

Before we talk about your work, let’s have a quick look at you. When did you start taking pictures? Or differently, when did you start to find and create your own style? Do you remember your first pictures?

I remember I got my first camera when I was 12 and I was obsessively taking pictures of everything – flowers and insects in particular. As a teenager I took many terrible photoshoots of my friends – you know, those kind of photos where you sat someone on train tracks in the forest, asked them to think about something deep and then you edit in in sepia to give it moody vibe. I was gaining knowledge through experience, meaning – thousands and thousands of bad pictures.
With time it started to clarify what I like and what I don’t like, what I’m into and what I want to explore. But for me it’s still work in progress, it is still changing and evolving. Even though looking at my works you can say I’ve got some kind of „style”, I’m pushing it different directions with every shoot. To me it’s really important to feel I’m challenging myself.

How is the current situation affecting you? What has changed? And how does it change or influence your work? How and where do you work at the moment?

Paradoxically, 2020 – the year of downtime and waiting for better tomorrow – is one of the most important years for me. I had time to reflect on the direction I’m going, not only with photography, but with life in general. I feel I understand myself better and know more what I want.
I’m very lucky with the space I live in, I take 90% of the photos in my flat. Because of the lockdown I focused even more on creating intimate atmosphere for my shoots, mainly cutting it to only my and the model.
Right now things are slowly coming back to normal, let’s call it „new normal”. I do many different things, not all of them connected with photography, but I also came back to taking actors and dancers headshots. At the same time I’m growing my Guys N Stuff project, not giving myself too much rest. It’s something that gives me joy and keeps me going.

Container Love regularly has changing themes, our Love Of The Month. This month is all about Narcissism (Look at me!) – the art of self-love, self-presentation, self-promotion, self-appreciation and self-applause.
Where is the line between art and narcissism in an era where everyone can (and does) constantly present themselves on social media? And how does this phenomenon affect your work?

I don’t feel entitled to draw the line between art and narcissism. You do you and I do me.
Of course when I was publishing my self-portrait shoot in Pornceptual, for a second I had all those doubts – people will think I’m foolishly in love with myself, narcissist, blah blah. But this is the unhealthy mindset. I approach every and each of my models with kindness, love and pure interest. Why shouldn’t I treat myself the same way?
I don’t like to pose people, I like to talk to them a lot before taking pictures and during the breaks, but then I just document what they want to give me. I really enjoy seeing them open up in front of me, letting go and just being. I’ve decided that sometimes I need the same time with myself.

Speaking of self-appreciation: We all had a difficult year. What would you like to applaud yourself for right now?

Right now, looking back at the past few years, I feel quite proud that I did not give up, that I was making decisions that were not always the most beneficial, but for sure true to who I am and who I want to be. Being authentic in what I do and how I act is very important to me.

Container Love’s mission is to highlight the beauty in diversity, to change views on love and to encourage and inspire more body positivity. Do your pictures have a message that fits into the Container Love universe

Even though the amount of artists creating on the field of erotica, porn and nudity is growing, I see that the society still have an issue with that. With my pictures and videos I want to show the beauty of people, of human body, intimacy and sensuality. It is beautiful. Why capturing it – on my side – and showing it – on the models side – should be something shameful? Why when people see a naked picture of someone, with great lightning, great shadows, great mood and atmosphere, they still will say „Oh, he doesn’t respect himself”? It doesn’t make sense to me. Nowadays nobody will look at nude paintings of XX century, thinking it’s disgraceful for the model. I think, as a society, we need a perception change. There’s too much judging and not enough appreciating.

Ok, we have a very personal question for you. Tell us your first love story. In 10 words.

Adventurous journey to the other side of the country.

I was 15. I’ve met him on a website where you can share your photography with others. We were talking a lot about our works (train tracks photos). One day I’ve decided, without telling anyone (even him), I’ll just take a train and check if we get along in real life. It was 12 hours trip to get to this little little village on the border of Germany, from the center of Poland. Went well, but the whole thing wasn’t very wise. Choices.

Container Love has been exhibiting a lot at music and art festivals in the past years. Will you be with us when our Pop Up Container starts rolling through the world again after the pandemic? And will you bring your camera?

Call me.

What would you really like to do? Right now? Instead of answering these little questions…

The bathtub is full of hot water and I didn’t have a breakfast yet. But most probably I will just cuddle with the cats for a while.

Famous last words?

Shame is a concept created to stop you from doing what you want to be doing. Just let go.