Anja Niemi, born in Norway in 1976, is a contemporary artist and photographer who rather prefers pictures than words to express herself. With her two last projects "Do not Disturb" and "Starlets", exhibited in London at The Little Black Gallery, she revealed herself as a bright and young talent. By experimenting staged narrative through self-portraiture, her pictures remind us of still films and movies posters. Her flawless compositions are troubled narratives which represent a perfect world with its imperfections, focusing on the humour and tragedy of everyday life.
Hi Anja, how are you? Tell us a little bit about where you are from and how did you discover your passion for photography.
I was born in Norway and I currently live and work from Oslo. Growing up I always had lots of stories, but I’ve never been good with words so I had a hard time sharing them. When I was a teenager I started taking pictures and I realized I could tell stories without words. This changed everything, I finally found the best way to express myself.
When did you start thinking about photography in a professional way?
I knew pretty early that I would spend my life taking pictures. I can't imagine doing anything else now.
What are the main inspirations for your work?
I look at a lot of photography, there is so much amazing work out there which is worth it seeing!  A part from that, I also find a lot of  inspiration in movies and dance performances such as Nederlands Dans Theater and choreography by the renowned Pina Bauch. I also loved the short Partita by Benjamin Millepied and Tim Fain.  Dancers have this poetical way of talking about everyday’s routine life, and it really arouses my interest.
Let’s talk a little bit about your latest projects "Starlets" and "Do Not Disturb", how did the projects come to life and what was your main inspiration during their realization?
I got the idea for Do Not Disturb from an article on Norwegian housewives in the 1950s who got a paid vacation from the government due to their difficult home situations.  The article had photos of well dressed women knitting by the sea. I started to imagine what they would have done once  alone in their hotel room,  free from duties and spectators. I then went into a number of hotels with a suitcase full of clothes and wigs, I thought about a range of characters to play and photographed myself in each suite.  For Starlets I  continued to look at the things that crawl underneath our surfaces and  presented a series of tragic-comic persona's from tormented suburban housewives to roller disco divas.
In both your series we notice a particular attention in the choice of the shooting location. What makes a location for you worth it to shoot?
The choice of location is really important for me. While choosing it, I have to be able to imagine who would inhabit the room and want to become this person.
You do also have a particular attention to details: all your pictures seem to represent a perfect and surrealistic world in both tragic and humorist way, what is the meaning behind your representations?
Life is filled with moments when humour blends into tragedy and ugliness into perfection, and I find it interesting that we often seem to be more comfortable with them apart. It´s easier to just turn your head away from something that is purely morbid or tragic, than if there is something humorous or beautiful about it. The attraction is uncomfortable and interesting.
One of the main features of your photography is the self-portraiture, which gives to your stories a more intimate tone. Is it difficult to not reveal much about yourself while being both in front and behind the camera?
It is, but I try not to think about it too much. I trust people don't really see me while looking at them but rather relate them to their own experiences.
You often define yourself as a "one-man band". Where did the choice of wanting to work alone originate?
Creating stories and taking pictures have always been very private moments to me, so it makes sense to be alone while doing it. Also, I like to be in control and I am a notorious perfectionist.  I can spend days doing the same thing over and over again, and I always thought it would have been uncomfortable to have someone else involved in that.  Being photographer, subject and stylist at the same time can get pretty ridiculous sometimes, especially when on roller skates dressed in a leotard!  But these are all things that add humor to my pictures.
Anyway, I have to say I am flexible and open to exceptions. I recently got the opportunity to create a fashion editorial with the French stylist Jonathan Huguet and I am glad I did it. I enjoyed the creative process a lot and it was nice to have some company, especially since the company was so talented!
Your pictures make one think of film stills and movie posters; moreover, your photography is highly inspired by cinema. How would you feel about the idea of adding movement to your images? Have you ever thought about making a film?
I have been willing to make things moving for a while now, and I am finally getting closer to make it happen. I am currently working on  a project based on a series of short stories written by my sister Lena Niemi.
Tell us about your upcoming projects: what’s next?
My next series is based on the content of a suitcase from 1959 that belonged to a woman I renamed Darlene Parker.  Her story is fictional, inspired by the information in the suitcase. There will be around 100 images that which will make Mrs Parkers photographic journal.  The series will be shown at The Little Black Gallery in 2015.