Maria Kapajeva

In this section of the course we are to look at the self-absented portraitures of a few photographers.  A self-absented portrait does not feature the photographer in a literal sense. The photographer may choose to use stand-in instead  might choose not to have anyone in the image at all.

Maria Kapajeva is an Estonian born photographer, currently working out of the UK. She emigrated to the UK, giving up her job and flat, attended the University of the Creative Arts in Farnham and is now on staff there as a tutor and researcher. As an immigrant myself, I can totally relate to her statement in Photoparley (2014): ‘It’s not easy to be Other and become someone in a foreign place.’ This is so true. When one emigrates, one leaves behind everything that is familiar and by coming to a new country one is the stranger, the interloper who has to learn to fit in and learn the culture of the  new country. This is not always easy.

I was quite intrigued with Kapajava’s statement regarding methods of working.

I think there are two ways of working as an artist (at least I see these two): one is you start from a technique and develop / master/ transform it. The second way is to start from an idea and find a technique for it.

Kapajeva (Photoparley)

I think I mainly use the second method as well, although with my last assignment it was probably a bit of a combination between the two. It will be interesting to see how this pans out for me down the photographic road.

Kapajeva’s project A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman features portraits of fellow immigrants who are her peers and with whom she identifies.The series of images can be loosely termed self-absented portraits in that Kapajeva has expressed something of her own experiences, struggles and emotions in each portrait. The women reflect something back to the viewer about Kapajeva.

Her work on Indian arranged marriages in Marry Me is quite fascinating, especially if one takes the remarks of each girl photographed into consideration. The concept of an arranged marriage is quite foreign to me and one which I find is rather strange. I had a young Indian colleague whose parents were pressurising her to get married. They had even uploaded her photo and details to a marriage website where interested parties could make contact with each other. I guess one has to grow up with that kind of a culture in order to understand it fully. It is, nevertheless, interesting.

Reference List

Boothroyd, Sharon (2014). Maria Kapajeva [online] Photoparley. Available from: [Accessed 1 November, 2015]

Maria Kapajeva. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman. [online] Available from: [Accessed 1 November, 2015]

Maria Kapajeva. Marry Me. [online] Available from: [Accessed 1 November, 2015]


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