Smart, silly and from a John Waters Dream: Meet the girl behind some of the most exciting fashion photography today.
By Randi Bergman
I’ve always thought the term “girl crush” was reductive… until I met Maya Fuhr. The Toronto-based image-maker is smart, beautiful, silly and dresses like a John Waters dream. She’s also responsible for some of the most exciting fashion photography today. Her work suits me just right—it’s strange, feminine, and strangely feminine. It’s bright, oft-overexposed, and explores commodity through a new lens: one that doesn’t bow to it. Having grown up in a so-called “granola” household, Fuhr was never raised with status items. Instead, her attachment to fashion is mainly emotional, and refers to shape, colour and textures.
In Fuhr’s recent Nasty Gal editorial, she explores nighttime fashion that’s bathed in light. “The concept is pure party girl,” she says. “Jerri Hall on a good day.” Here, we get to know more.
What do you love shooting most?
I like shooting found objects and textures. I shoot a lot of plastics, which is funny because I was raised very granola and I wasn’t allowed plastic when I was growing up so I sort of fetishize plastic now that I’m older because I wasn’t allowed it as a kid. That’s what my mom says anyways.
What else weren’t you allowed as a kid?
I definitely didn’t grow up with TV and so celebrity and media really don’t really have the same affect on me as they do for other people. I don’t get awestruck by celebrities and I think that comes through my photographs because I shoot those kind of things really nonchalantly. I don’t realize a lot of people I shoot are famous until afterward.
How did you originally get into photography?
I got into it out of boredom in high school and then my dad bought me a film camera when I was 17 and I started obsessively documenting my life. I started a documentary and I’d print them 4×6 and make photo albums. So it was more like a sentimental process and then I started realizing that I could get paid for it and that’s when I went more into the fashion world.
How do you source inspiration?
For the most part, I simply need a day off to be able to lurk around town and see what catches my eye. Going to museums and Chinatown really helps.
Can you speak to your recent solo show, Malleable Privilege?
I have had a lot of fashion gigs lately and I’ve realized that I really don’t believe in consumer culture or buying name brands. It’s kind of ironic that people choose me to shoot fashion so I was thinking a lot about that.
I made clay sculptures that were supposed to symbolize advertisements and clothing. For example, I made a clay sculpture that was inspired by the GAP puff jackets. They were my first introduction to consumer culture and so I made them into a clay sculpture and put it on pedestal and flashed it really brightly so it looked like an advertisement but it was tongue in cheek.
In every single photo there was synthetic fiber contrasting with clay so it symbolized the earth. I was exploring the fashion industry and the direct result it has upon our earth.
Do you think you would ever stop doing fashion?
I don’t think I’ll ever stop but I think I’ll continue to also make art about it. I’m not going to preach, like “fashion sucks” or anything, because I still enjoy it, but it makes me feel better to approach it humorously.
How do you reconcile fashion with style?
I’m into fashion in the way that I express my own personal taste through what I wear but I don’t really identify with the culture of name brands and designer stuff. I’m drawn to colours and textures in clothing and I have an emotional attachment with certain articles that I associate with a particular moment or time in my life.
When I gravitate to “new items” (that are usually second-hand) it kinda feels like they’re speaking to me. It seems meant to be, and I keep things forever. This sentimentality may strangely comes through in my style.
You spent part of the summer holed up on Toronto Island – how did it go?
My residency at Artscape was incredible! It came at a much needed time after a busy summer of photo work. I flourished in my alone time, shuffling around my studio making aluminum sculptures, clay figures, water colour paintings and lots of still lifes. I ate breakfast on the beach every single morning and stayed up late editing. My fave project was mounting one of my “exposure” images onto aluminum metal and then crumpling it and letting the waves splash into it on the beach ~ very relaxing. I premiered this video at Permanent Collection Film Festival at Project Gallery a couple nights ago. On the island, when I’m in nature and isolation, it feels like one day is an eternity – I had time for literally everything I didn’t find time for in the city this summer.
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