It takes a terrific artist to commit to a long-term project. Bavarian born and bred Eva Mueller is one such terrific artist. For one of her projects this year she decided to undertake a journey of photographing one portrait per day for the entire year, all 365 days. She recently photographed Kinkster MAG managing editor Corey Wesley who was very impressed with the outcome. We chatted with Mueller to learn more about the project and I also took the opportunity to talk with Wesley about his experience being photographed.
Mueller originally studied graphic design and worked as an art director in Munich but made the transition to fashion, beauty and music photography soon after moving to New York. With an affinity for stark minimalism, Mueller’s fascination with the human body can result in surprisingly playful, complex and searching images.
She has worked for major design companies in the US, UK, and Germany and her editorial work has appeared in many German, British and American fashion magazines. She has also shot for most major record labels and has had many of the best DJ’s in front of her lens.
Although she has never been big on New Year’s resolutions, Mueller decided 2017 was going to be a different year. She made the resolution to continue to develop personally and professionally by taking on this project. Other photographers have undertaken similar endeavors and Mueller chose to place herself in a position which would make her a bit uncomfortable. On December 31st it all began when she created her first of 365 portraits by photographing a friend she was helping move.
Mueller stated that as a freelancer she oftentimes doesn’t have a routine. She decided a daily routine and daily achievement might take her out of her comfort zone. She says that having committed to taking a daily portrait gives her a sense of achievement each and every day. Another reason for undertaking the project is to connect with people. She is forced to engage on different levels with everyone she photographs and those connections allow her a moment of bonding time as she captures the essence of the individual.
Her rules for each photograph are pretty simple. She has tossed out the notion of having a highly produced venue or situation with which she is comfortable. Instead, she has chosen to use any type of camera and will take a portrait in a range of situations. There must be an exchange with the subject and she must have their attention for the photograph. She has photographed friends and business associates, as well as individuals she’s met on the street or on her international travels. Mueller shared that each encounter brings a bonding moment that is sometimes therapeutic and spiritual.
Mueller reflected on her experience with the project to date. She has learned that it’s a really good thing to get herself out of her comfort zone and take on a daily practice. She has learned to do things on the go, using the available light, locations, and situations that are present in that moment. Mueller tries to do her work as fast as she can so she doesn’t come across as harassing to her subjects. If she feels a photograph may have been a bit rushed or could be improved, she allows herself the ability to use Photoshop later.
When asked which individual has the most unique story so far, she quickly mentioned the woman she met on the street at 18th and 8th. She passed a woman whose face seemed to have a darkened color to it but Mueller couldn’t make out what was really going on. This woman intrigued her and a half hour later when Mueller passed back the same way, she introduced herself to the woman and asked if she could take her portrait. It turned out that the darkening on the woman’s face was a tattoo. At one point in her life the woman wanted to have her face tattooed solid black. Mueller said this was a very deep encounter.
Mueller also recently photographed Corey Wesley, managing editor of Kinkster MAG. Wesley had met Mueller via a mutual business associate (Mykel Cortez Smith) who recommended Mueller for a job photographing Kinkster NYC apparel. Mueller helped bring Kinkster NYC to life. Wesley says her quality of work is amazing and he has enjoyed connecting with her on both a professional and personal level. When Mueller asked Wesley if he would be her portrait of the day at a dinner she hosted, he was excited to say yes.
Wesley’s portrait has a ton of emotion and dynamism in it so I asked him what was going through his mind during the photoshoot. Wesley hadn’t seen Mueller in about a year and while at dinner that night he shared a lot of what he had been going through, including experiencing a relapse of drug addiction. For some time Wesley had felt shameful of talking about his struggles. By sharing his fears, anxieties, and experiences at dinner that night with someone he considered a friend, being authentic and true to himself, he felt a catharsis. During the shoot he let go of a lot of shame and Mueller captured that in his portrait. He was also experiencing some anger; anger for relapsing and anger at himself for not acknowledging he had friends around him, like Mueller, with whom he could rely on for support. For Wesley, Mueller captured a moment in which he was letting go, a moment of release. He says he will look at the portrait in the future to remind himself of that moment and the positive emotions he felt by letting go.
Although the 365 portraits are not yet completed, Mueller is considering what the future will hold for this project. She is considering gallery showings as well as a photobook. She has been receiving a lot of positive feedback and for now she is hoping people continue to engage on social media, enjoy the photos, and join her on the journey. She also continues to work on some of her other projects including “Flowers and Chocolate” (a series of photographs of black penises with intricate, colorful flowers) and “Black Face” (a photo series exploring race).
From the interview, it is clear that Mueller is committed to and has been impacted by the journey she is taking. We wish her well as she she nears her 365th portrait and encourage you to find ways to connect with her.