Melissa Schriek: The City Is A Choreography

Artist Melissa Schriek

Words Tom Czibolya

Everything is in constant motion. Things do not remain for eternity. People come and go. Buildings come and go. Cities come and go. Change is good – mostly. But how often do we walk through the streets and think: Wasn’t there a restaurant here yesterday? Or where did this apartment building suddenly come from? And since when can you turn left here? There is so much that we have not yet seen. So how about taking a look around the next corner, or even looking up? There are lamps that bend towards you, windows that stare at you like eyes, doors that just seem to say “Oh you…”.

Amsterdam based photographer Melissa Schriek has faced this constant change. In her book The City Is A Choreography she explores the city and the relationship to their residents. We will go outside now, take a look around and close this intro with the wise words of Bryan Ferry “Don’t stop the dance“.

How are you? And what did you do before you sat down for the interview?

I’m doing alright although its a very strange time where lots of last-minute changes are happening concerning my work/exhibitions etc. Before this interview, I woke up very early to walk through the city with my father so he could photograph city landscapes. He is a hobby photographer.

Tell us something about you. Since when have you been photographing? Do you remember your first pictures?

I have been busy with photography for as long as I can remember. My first memory is taking a disposable camera to a schooltrip to an amusement park. The whole day I was busy with the camera and making images, constructing them and placing classmates as models. My father developed them, found the images interesting for a child and gave me my first camera after that.

Talking about first pictures – on your website you write that you initially wanted to become a detective. So lovely. When did that change, and why?

I have always been very curious about the world around me. Initally my photography projects were merely a way to get in to situations where I didn’t belong. I like that as a photographer I’m often anonymous, looking through a camera to see the world at a different way. Looking for things others may not see. Showing them a different reality.

I also had a very romantic idea of a detective (and that a life like that would not be romantic at all). I thought about it as someone shifting persona’s to get certain information. I saw it a bit as theatre, playing a different character whenever you need too. This interest in theatre and performance comes back in my work where I try to stay on the line of fiction and reality.

Your photos have a very performative quality, like dancing through the streets, dancing with the city, with your surroundings. Where does that come from? And what’s the idea behind that? What was the inspiration behind The City Is A Choreography?

The body is the most expressive tool we have. I like my work to evoke strong emotions and still to be open for interpretation. I see the body as a sculpture and when I started working on The City Is A Choreography it was very intuitive that I started merging the body and the landscape of the city. I see the city as a place of constant movement. A rhythm we become part of once we step onto the concrete streets. The city is composed of strangers and familiar objects: the ubiquitous sidewalk, a slightly bent street pole, a bright orange traffic cone, or a broken-down bicycle left to rust. They all seem trivial and significant at the same time. I wanted to figure out how to connect meaningfully with our daily environment and the strangers we pass by. It was the boredom of walking the same route every day, seeing the same objects and the anonymous faces in the crowd, that made me start to see the city as a choreography.

Tell us something about your book. Is it already available for purchase? And how and where can people get it?

The City Is A Choreography is for sale through my webshop.

It’s my first photobook and collects all the images of The City Is Choreography. The book is available in a limited edition of 300. Shipping worldwide!