COPENHAGEN'S YOUTH CULTURE UNDER MILENA MAJDA EYES
The interview below was done along the past 7 months through out emails and in-between conversations on Instagram DM’s. Milena and I were just simply trying to have a human dialogue about influences that shaped her photographic style and also MUTUKA visual representations as part of an art experiment and through self-expression. Is safe to say that, for us, art and (in her case) photography, friends and skateboarding are determinants to maintain sanity. But also question; until what extend art through social media brings a meaningful scale of its own purpose when in showcase?
Read down below our interview with our dear friend Milena Majda;
MUTUKA: First of all, what made you start photography?
MILENA: When I was small I would always go through my parents' drawers where my mom kept her jewelry, cosmetics and other "valuable and interesting" objects. And one of them was an old, analog camera that they had bought before I was even born. My parents didn't use it anymore, since digital photography has already been a thing. So, one day, when I was like 14, I asked them if I could have it since they weren't using it.
It's Canon PrimaSuper135 that they bought at the airport in Switzerland when I was in my mom's belly, and that is the camera I use until today.
I got some random film rolls from Rossmann and started taking pictures of stuff around me: my friends, my family, my cat, events, school, house parties, gigs, skaters, b-boy events, summer trips, all that stuff. I enjoyed collecting memories from all the things I did and do in this form. In 2016 I moved to Amsterdam to do my bachelor degree and pretty much stopped taking pictures because I got too busy and pretty burned out… Then last year (2019) I moved to Copenhagen where I live a completely different lifestyle as I only work full time. Which means I have more time for my own interests and myself; like skating, so I automatically picked my camera back up as well.
MTK: And is there any special reason why you prefer to shoot with film rather than digital?
M: Not really, it's just how I started and I like to stick to that. But I appreciate the analog rather than digital since you have to put more time into it. The whole process is much more interesting to me, the development (I am not developing my own pics yet, YET!), the wait, the fact that you never know how they will turn out etc. And I also like to try different types of films with different parameters, not really knowing what they're for and just experimenting with it. I think that the final look of analog pictures is something that will never be possible to be done with digital photography.
MTK: Yes, is quite hard to get the same feeling with it. I can see that, just as a painter is open to deal with imperfections, you’re actually saying that when it comes to your photography you are also enjoying the whole craft, right?
M: Yeah totally! I like the uncertainty I have with analog photography, especially when I am trying to do pictures of people skating. I don't really have a clear idea about how those pictures will come out. Sometimes the whole roll might be "wasted" but I take it as a part of my learning process and I'm glad to let myself experiment. Before that, I used to be way more cautious about not "wasting" the film rolls.
Yes, definitely the whole craft and process of analog adds the charm and value to it. Even if I just do point and shoot, I still see many ways to experiment with this simple camera. As I said, I am not developing my own pictures yet, but I am really looking forward to getting there and using it as a new way to work with my photos.
MTK: Today social media plays a big part on helping artists to have their work promoted and also to connect with different people. Which comes to almost being a crucial step for many. When comes to that, do you think photography has the same effect or it looses touch? What is your take on that?
M: The possibilities that social media gives to photographers and creatives are definitely amazing, as you can reach a completely new audience with it and thousands more can see and enjoy what you're doing. So that is for sure a big plus. But I do agree that seeing it on a small screen on IG will never be as good as seeing it on a full page of a magazine or printed on high quality paper and framed. Displayed on a wall or in layout that you thought through, and not just 3 tiny ass squares next to each other.
MTK: How would you describe your relationship with skateboarding and its culture?
M: It started with playing Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4 on PC with my older sister and her friends when I was like 11 years old, and since then I have been fascinated by skateboarding and the culture around it; music, clothing etc. I've tried skating when I was a kid but it was hard since there were not many people skating in my city and none of them were girls, so even if I had friends I could skate with, I could not do any tricks and I would easily get frustrated and demotivated. I would mostly hang out and be friends with skaters but on the back of my mind it has always been my dream to skate and do tricks.
Moving to Copenhagen changed a lot as the scene here is big and very open-minded, including a lot of female skaters, which I am absolutely in love with! During CPH Open 2019 I met a lot of great people that I started skating with and I do it until today. I find it amazing how non-judgmental it is here. No one really cares who you are and what your skills are, as long as you are having fun. People encourage and help each other to try and to learn new tricks and push your own boundaries. I really appreciate it! A lot of skaters I've met are also really talented, they're photographers, filmmakers, musicians, artists… I really like how skateboarding can interact with other disciplines.
When it comes to my skating skills, not much changed since middle school, it is still pretty sloppy and I still can't do much on flatground, but my approach to skateboarding has definitely changed: I am more laid back about it and just try to enjoy riding and spending time with great people, instead of putting too much pressure on myself. I have always been scared of being judged, but I learnt that no one really gives a shit. I hope that this is something I will take from Copenhagen to any other place I’ll go in the future!
MTK: I feel like when comes to culture, different cities/countries have different manners and also the approach is relatively different. But when it comes to skate and its culture around it, things tend to be more or less the same. I mean... the approach is kinda similar, since everybody is living it and being connected through the same vibe. Do you agree?
M: Hmmmm… Yes and no?! haha. I agree that skateboarding has, generally, the same principles because wherever you go it's about having fun, trying new things and getting each other stoked. But from what I have seen from the places I have lived in so far, it all might differ depending on the environment/conditions and how it affects the local skate scene. Like the skate scene is different in Copenhagen, Denmark than in Gdansk (Poland) because there are 1210923312312 more skate spots and the flat in the whole city is great, so there is way more skaters here than in Gdansk, and that might result in a more chill atmosphere and less competition among skaters since you are "one of many", while in Gdansk you are one of maybe 50. - Does that make sense? I don’t know if that is necessarily true everywhere... But, yes, I do agree that skateboarding connects above any cultural or language difference or barrier! I have met great people who I could not speak the same language with and we had a great time and got each other stoked while skating.
MTK: Yes, skating, just like any other sport, has a competitive aspect.
M: I mean, that is another great thing about it, you can also have your own interpretation. Is it a sport or not? Should it be in the Olympics? Etc and etc.
I think that if someone is really good at it to the point where they can live from it, be my guest. For me, the last thing that skateboarding is, is a competition. It’s about having fun, being together and pushing your own boundaries.
MTK: How's life treating you so far? (leaving Amsterdam to work and live in Copenhagen)
M: Wow, big question haha. Life is up and down, but it is good! Moving from Amsterdam to Copenhagen was for sure a rebirth since I am financially stable here and all the time outside of the office is mine because I don't need to work on school projects, study for exams, work part time in retail, none of that shit. Now I have so much more headspace and time to do things I am passionate about.
Studying at Amsterdam Fashion Institute (AMFI) was a life-sucking nightmare. I do miss Amsterdam and my friends a lot, but quality of life is way better here and this is much healthier to me. I needed this stability. But what brings me the biggest satisfaction, is knowing that whatever I feel like doing, either skating, taking pictures or learning how to DJ or learning how to speak Portuguese, I have the time to do it.
MTK: Earlier, you’ve talked about experimenting and living the moment when photographing. What catches your attention today? What do you look for when photographing?
M: At this moment, there is nothing really specific, but the people and environment around and about me. How it is to be a young person living in Copenhagen. I live in an amazing city, surrounded by beautiful, fun and talented people, so I just want to document the culture and what is happening around me: skating, parties, hangouts, everyday life. There is not really any specific topic I focus on. I am taking these pictures, so when I'm 80 years old, I will remember how it was to be a 23 year old me.
INTERVIEWER / WORDS: Lucas Caldana (@lucas.caldana)
CREATIVE DIRECTION: Lucas Caldana (@lucas.caldana)
PHOTOGRAPHY: Milena Majda (@quartzcube)
PHOTOGRAPHY ASSISTANT (last picture): Hans Reyes (@_reyeshans)
SKATERS: Dave, Francisco, Hans, Matt, Simon, Krzysiek, Ortyl, Fillip, Felix, and Matlok Bennett-Jones
THANKS TO: Char, Yennhi, Trish and Serena and all mentioned above.