I first met Mona, upcoming London-based photographer, when she slid into my Instagram DMs asking to meet up when she arrived in New York City from London (we had a mutual friend). I knew even before we met that she probably carried with her the colorful ethos of those who are well traveled; people who, as Mona describe, have their “eyes open and connection feelers open” as they arrive in a new city. Born and raised in Germany, Mona moved to London four years ago to study fashion print, incorporating her other visual interests, from drawing to photography, into her practice. We talked briefly on the social media app, introducing ourselves, talking about interests and mutual friends before agreeing to meet up for a relatively impromptu shoot after her arrival in New York. As Mona describes, she prefers “spontaneous photography.” She often plans the preliminary of her shoots beforehand but remains “super open for anything to happen that will change up the story.”
A few weeks later, I met Mona in Prospect Park. It was raining and seasonally colder than expected, the rain clouds greying the otherwise lush green of the park. Mona walked out of the subway, a bright flash of color streaking the sidewalk—she gave a small wave before crossing the street to the park. More deliberate in tone and initially more introverted than I expected, she quickly described what she pictured for the shoot and apologized for being slightly hungover from the previous night which she had spent at Elsewhere, in Brooklyn. The ‘impromptu’ nature of the shoot turned out to be more curated than expected—she had met two young designers, Dream Porcelain and Only Friend, also on Instagram, and asked them to style the shoot with pieces from their own collections. She explained that she wanted to create a zine when she got back to London about her time in New York to supplant her photo show “Way in Way Out.”
We soon found out we had more mutual friends than expected after yet another impromptu (and surprise) meet-up with our long time mutual friend Rachel, also known as Sedona, it became clear the Mona was no spiritual stranger to New York City. Rather she found herself right at home, airbnb-ing in Brooklyn while commuting to the city for fashion shows and dates with friends. Her innate chameleon quality of adjusting to different cities is present in both her personality and her work. Her photos, which capture the loud clutter of New York City can just as easily take on the persona of an anonymous city. She balances the high energy chaos just as effortlessly as she captures the more muted side of the city, across the water. The versatility of her work and her affinity for fashion grew out of a “family trip from London to Paris”, around when she was 15, after just having “purchased a film camera from a charity shop”. She married her love of photography to fashion, it’s distant relative, after realizing that the pairing of the two “helps [her] link [her] creative senses.”
While her initial inspirations grew more from her younger years of travel, she cites her current inspirations to come more from the online and social media frontier. “As we live in such a digital world today I get inspired a lot from social media too—Instagram, Tumblr, magazine sites,” says Mona who uses Instagram as one of her primary sources of casting. Her favorite photographers include Dafy Hagai, James PDF, and Eleanor Hardwick, all who have inspired her to “create an aura/atmosphere through light streaks and the natural outdoors.” Her editorial series’ ‘Rainbow Poes’ and ‘White Editorial’ published on Sticks n’ Stones Agency and up on Yoko.
When she got back to London, Mona developed all 17 rolls of film from her trip to New York and put together her first solo show and zine release. Having forecasted that she would shoot in New York over the duration of the trip, she had not expected the sheer volume of photographs she would collect in the mere two weeks, nor the cumulative nature of all the shoots. When filing through the footage she realized that all the photographs captured qualities of New York that she fell in love with, also token qualities of London that she saw related in the streets of our city. “The vibe I got was open, people seemed friendly, even on the metro you could talk to people and not feel odd about it…NYC definitely has something from London looking at how culturally open both are. Music and fashion scene interlink which I love,” she says, regarding her time here.
As for whether or not she sees herself back in our city in the near future, Mona agrees fervently. “I definitely have on my mind moving to NYC after graduating next year for a year or maybe 2! Would love to have a new surrounding, get inspired in a new spot,” she says. As for now, Mona is working patiently on completing her last year of university in London and excitedly awaiting the “colorful ride” that she will embark upon after graduation.