“Through an analogic 35mm film, the Cambridge-based photographer Maya Beano portrays nature’s ever-changing moods and the relationship they have with her personal thoughts and feelings. She was born in Jordan, whose landscapes are featured in several of her photography series and her identity is shaped by all the cultures she is a part of. To […]”

Getting closer to Maya Beano

Through an analogic 35mm film, the Cambridge-based photographer Maya Beano portrays nature’s ever-changing moods and the relationship they have with her personal thoughts and feelings. She was born in Jordan, whose landscapes are featured in several of her photography series and her identity is shaped by all the cultures she is a part of. To her, to be able to express herself in a visual form, it is something very empowering.

I grew up taking pictures on film, moved on to a digital camera in my late teens and moved back to film in my twenties. Personally, I enjoy the tangibility of film.

What is your first photographic memory?
The first camera in my life was a Kodak from Disneyland which my mother gave me. I used to run around the house with it taking photos of my younger brothers. I recently found one of the earliest photos I took: my baby brother on his toy horse in 1995.

Could you describe yourself with a book, a song and movie?
I don’t know if these describe me, but they’re certainly some of my all-time favourites.
Book: “Staying Alive” by Neil Astley
Song: “Stardust” by Nat King Cole
Movie: “Fly Away Home” (the geese!)

Which of your pictures would you choose to introduce yourself?
I was flying back to England from Amman on New Year’s Eve a few years ago, and I took a photo on the plane of the shadow of my hand. This was the last exposure of the last roll of film I had during that trip. I think this is still one of my most recognised photos, and I’m glad it resonates with a lot of people.

A famous picture, not yours, you would have liked to take.
One of the famous black and white photos of Amelia Earhart sitting in her plane. I don’t know who took it, and I know it’s a completely different style of photography, but I really love the sense of determination in her eyes.

A famous person you would like to portray.
Queen Rania of Jordan perhaps! She does a lot to improve education and empower young people.

You say you prefer film photography to digital photography, and 35mm film more than any other. We think it is inspiring to see young photographer using film nowadays. Speaking about you, why do you prefer film to digital?
I grew up taking pictures on film, moved on to a digital camera in my late teens and moved back to film in my twenties. I don’t think there’s any rule to this, and I have seen brilliant pieces of work by both film and digital photographers. Personally, I enjoy the tangibility of film.

We know you were born in Amman, Jordan. Do you think your original background is still present in your art? If so, how?
Of course! I am a blend of all of my backgrounds, and my identity is shaped by all the cultures I am a part of.
I regularly go back to visit Jordan, and its landscapes are featured in several of my photography series. Even when I’m not there, I find myself thinking about my childhood and all of the experiences that have led me to become the person I am today.

You capture chances that many of us miss or do not see. How do you choose the subjects of your art? Which relationship do you have with the places and people you portray?
All of the people in my photos are my close friends, and most of my photos are taken during our trips away together. We’ve been to different parts of the world, including all the way to the Arctic. My family members also make an appearance from time to time. I feel very lucky to have such a supportive and adventurous group of people in my life. I just love them so much. I’m slightly obsessed with cold places, which sometimes proves to be problematic because some of my friends are, understandably, more fond of the warmth. We alternate between cold and warm countries! I’m taking one of my best friends to Jordan soon because she has promised to come to Iceland or the Alps with me after that.

In your photos you report the interplay between nature and human emotion. Precisely, you portray nature’s ever-changing moods and the relationship they have with your personal thoughts and feelings. How much does nature interact with your feelings?
I remember a time in my late teens when my mood depended completely on the weather. When it was cloudy and foggy, I’d feel very low and I’d only feel better when the sky got brighter again. This stage passed, and my mood isn’t linked to the clouds anymore, but I still remember the intensity of it. It was a difficult time in my life in general, and I now look back and think I must have been struggling with seasonal affective disorder. I really love stormy weather now! More tea for me.

I’m slightly obsessed with cold places, which sometimes proves to be problematic because some of my friends are, understandably, more fond of the warmth.

Your photographic series are visual narratives. There, a feeling of nostalgia seems to emerge gently, together with a kind of melancholy that accompanies your past memories. Is this done on purpose?
When I first started posting my work online a few years ago, I didn’t have a very well-formed idea of what I wanted to do with my photography. I was just posting photos of whatever I was feeling at the time. As I experimented with different film, I realised that I could capture the moods that I’d like my photos to convey. I know that some seem melancholic, but I wouldn’t say I do this on purpose. It’s just what I’m drawn to and what resonates with me.

Through your pictures, you collect memories from journeys, from walks, from lands, from people, from emotions, in mesmerizing imagery. You reveal beautiful moments in time among sublime landscapes. By photographs you keep all your memories close to you. What role does photography play in your life?
Photography plays a very big role in my life, and I honestly can’t imagine a world without it. I actually always wanted to be a painter (or an astronaut!), but I was much better at photography than at painting. There is something very empowering about being able to express myself in visual form.

Often, peaceful and quiet sensations can be detected from your landscapes. How do you feel when alone, all surrounded by nature?
This is the best feeling, although I like to share it with the people closest to me so I don’t feel too alone.

Your pictures are dream-like visions of journeys, travels and memories. How do you recreate these dreamy landscapes?
I focus on three things: the light, the composition and, most importantly, the colour. Together, these three things set the mood.

Your landscapes scenes seem to be natural portraits taken during travels and journeys near and far. However, they enclose very personal, subjective visions of those. You are able to capture moments of your life, gently revealing all feelings of that precise time. How are you able to do it?
I usually have a vague mental image of what the final photo will look like. It’s half planned, half left to chance.

What is leading you to become a professional photographer?
I don’t think I would be able to support myself financially if I became a professional photographer. My plan is to keep doing it alongside a full-time job in science, which is my other passion.

Your next project.
I’m going to Jordan for a few weeks, and I will be exploring more places there than I’ve ever done before.

Your main flaw and quality.
I’m an incredibly restless person. On the bright side, I’ve always been told that I’m very caring.

Make a wish.
I wish I could hug my childhood cat just one more time. She always shows up in my dreams.

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