Mirka Laura Severa builds twisted realities through set design and photography

Having left her comfort zone, the photographer’s work now blends concepts, creative direction and a load of surprising narratives.

Date
1 March 2022

Mirka Laura Severa’s practice has lifted off in recent years, floating further away from realism and into the territory of experimental photography. A few years back – 2016 to be exact – we featured her photo series for SZ Magazine, which saw snowmen come to life as models. Now, the photographer is less concerned with the depictions of people, and follows more in the footsteps of intuition and creative storytelling. “I always used to merge concept, set design and photography,” she tells It’s Nice That. “In the last couple of months I’ve worked in projects without combining them necessarily; I feel more free by being less ‘precious’ about it and leaving my comfort zone. I truly follow my instinct and feel what’s right, what excites me and where I get energy from.”

Mirka now broadens her remit to concept and creative direction and, when she's not working in Random Studio’s new office space on collaborations, she spends her time completing freelance and full-time projects as an artist-cum-photographer. Surrounded by a host of creatives working across different mediums from 3D to spatial design and sound design, Mirka is more than inspired in her surroundings to think outside of the box. When producing one of her images, then, her process begins with the concept and research phase, to which she will customise her idea to best suit to the brief. “At the end of the day it’s about bringing a ‘message’ into a visual,” she notes. “Either I choose the message myself or the client does.”

Next, her task is to bring this message into a visual narrative. Sharp and stripped down to the essentials, Mirka doesn’t hold back when it comes to punchy and simplified concept building. “For me, it’s important to make that visualisation unique and refreshing.” Finally, she’ll go into the production phase and commence work on the set design, building most of it on her own.

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Mirka Laura Severa: Bakken Baeck, Bee Happy (Copyright © Mirka Laura Severa, 2021)

Sweet Dreams is a recent example of Mirka’s refreshed output. It’s a project that compiles cut pieces of cake and mattresses, revealing their “visual and psychological similarity”, she explains. Presented in a minimal, grid-like form, each panel depicts a scrumptious-looking slice of something – although you’re not sure whether it’s a cake or mattress. “Eating and sleeping are essentials in our life, we need it to survive,” continues Mirka. “But if we overdo it, too much sleep and food is unhealthy. I love the simplicity of the photography towards the surprising reveal of the concept.”

In Shoes, Mirka has created an ongoing video project of (you guessed it) shoes worn in public spaces. With a cropped frame, the films reveal just the bottom half of the subjects; it’s engaging, anonymous and on the cusp of being a little bizarre. “The project is documentary, but the way it’s shot gives the impression that it’s staged,” she says. “Therefore fitting my set design created and constructed world.” She’s also toyed about with original sound and voices from the footage to add to the layers, featuring additional sounds by musician Steve Mensink. Bags, on the other hand, is a project made with Nina Ricci’s faux fur and leather bags. Another accessories project, this time she built customised terrariums based on the DIY YouTube videos you get online. “The terrarium world can also be read as ‘consumers world’ – real looking, but is it real?”

This question forms the backbone to everything Mirka puts her mind towards; she ultimately gives objects, people and ideas an alternate meaning. “I hope to make the viewer discover a new angle of looking at things,” she concludes. “A sort of twisted reality where nothing is new or different.”

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Mirka Laura Severa: Bags (Copyright © Mirka Laura Severa, 2021)

Mirka Laura Severa: Shoes (Copyright © Mirka Laura Severa, 2021)

Mirka Laura Severa: Shoes (Copyright © Mirka Laura Severa, 2021)

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Mirka Laura Severa: Prada, The Bag Receiver (Copyright © Mirka Laura Severa, 2021)

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Mirka Laura Severa: Healthy Body (Copyright © Mirka Laura Severa, 2021)

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Mirka Laura Severa: Sweet Dreams, MacGuffin Magazine (Copyright © Mirka Laura Severa, 2021)

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Mirka Laura Severa: Airport, MLem Magazine du Monde (Copyright © Mirka Laura Severa, 2021)

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Mirka Laura Severa: Tornado Earring, BVDV (Copyright © Mirka Laura Severa, 2021)

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About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent nearly a decade as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.

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