Kabul-born, Berlin-based photographer Mehran Djojan captures beautiful conceptual portraits that explore the dreamlike realm of his imagination. The 20-year-old photographer, who is studying communication design, uses nature as his backdrop to create compelling scenes that are striking in their moody simplicity.
Although often surreal in scope, the images appear effortlessly natural; they evoke emotion through the expressiveness of the subjects' faces and bodies within the environment, rather than overly contrived, digitally manipulated tropes of the genre. In Djojan's world, a piercing gaze, a mysterious prop, and an illusive daydream are all it takes to create a fantastic photo.
We had the chance to ask the photographer a few questions about his creative process and artistic vision. Scroll down to read that exclusive interview.
When was the moment you first knew you wanted to be a photographer?
When I was around 13, I got my first camera and I took it with me wherever I went. I didn't have any concept or a precise conception of what I was doing at that time. The pictures I took were varying, like of objects, friends, or strangers I saw on the streets. After a while, I broke my camera and at that point I somehow realized just how much time I had spent with the camera, and how lonely I was finding myself without the opportunity to photograph. I guess this moment showed me clearly that photography wasn't meant to be just another hobby for me.
What are some key elements of your photography, whether conceptually or aesthetically?
The composition between a human and its surrounding. I try to evoke a sort of harmony between the individual and the environment. You can say more than a thousand words with the use of body language and facial expressions. These are just two aspects that affect my photography, just like nature, which also plays an important role in a lot of my images.
Are you more drawn to surreal or naturalistic portraiture?
I like both of them. But to be honest, right now I have a preference for surreal portraits. They give me the power to display all my childhood fantasies and enable me to let my daydreams come true. But it's not just a way to picture my fantasies. I hope that the scenarios I'm creating also inspire the imaginations of the viewers through their individual ways of interpreting the images.
Do you capture your portraits spontaneously, or do you plan each photo shoot beforehand?
It really depends. There are a lot of photos arising spontaneously; I work with what is there and what I have in the situation. And sometimes there are ideas evolving in my head that I want to implement just the same way it's pictured in my mind's eye–then I have to look for a proper location, necessary requisites, and so on.
Who and what inspires your work?
I'll probably never complain about a loss of inspiration.
Sometimes it's a feeling like emptiness, longing, or passion. And sometimes it's a song or a even a beautiful melody that is giving me as much input as I need for new ideas. Sometimes it's really just the smallest, least striking things can give you a multitude of ideas and inspiration.
Moving forward, how do you hope you'll continue to grow as a photographer?
As I love traveling around the world, I hope my photography keeps taking me to new places and new people, just as it did before. Not only did I get to meet many other photographers and artists, but every trip, every person, and every picture taken during my journey also helped me become the photographer I am right now. I'm looking forward to continuing this trip and to grow with every station I pass. And a big dream would come true if, one day, I have my own exhibition.
My Modern Met granted permission to use photos by Mehran Djojan.