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The Questionnaire : Maya Mercer by Carole Schmitz


MAYA MERCER : Emotion on the edge of your skin

French-American photographer and video artist Maya Mercer is the daughter of British playwright David Mercer. She spent much of her childhood and adolescence between Paris, Los Angeles and London. A self-taught artist, she describes herself as a “photocineast”, experiences “life as a stage” and loves to tell stories.

She now lives and works in the United States where she has spent a long time in Northern California. Known to be the richest state in America, she has paradoxically realized a very touching and disturbing series. These photos of young girls taken in sordid places are inspired by the social conditions of the American rural wild west. The result is surprisingly sensitive and the subjects seem out of time while they reflect anguish and a certain decadence.

Far from being indulgent, her activist work is above all a warning to the world we live in and to ourselves as well. It focuses on the culture undermined by  poverty growing everywhere, psychological disorders that affect more and more people, intolerable violence against women, and on the generation Z or “generation Covid” or “digital natives” too forgotten in these times of crisis … and forces us to think about where is our happiness in all this?

Instagram :



Your first photographic click ?
Maya Mercer : I saw “Eyes of Laura Mars” when I was 12 years old, I was obsessed with getting a camera to become Laura Mars and see things through the lens that others wouldn’t!

The man of images who inspires you ?
Maya Mercer : William Eggleston

The image you would have liked to make?
Maya Mercer : “Lago” by Julia Margaret Cameron just for the thrill of being a woman in 1867 taking a man’s dark side portrait with wet plate collodion process, Creating a collodion print was an extremely difficult and hazardous process that required working with combustible materials in almost total darkness. The portrait is very modern. tough  cookie woman photographer in the Victorian era!


The one that moved you the most ?
Maya Mercer : One of many: Feet in restraints, Ward 81, Oregon State Hospital, Salem , Oregon 1976 by Mary Ellen Mark.
Patients are not allowed to see other patients receive shock treatments. All the women are locked into their rooms while Dixie receives hers. Ellen was terrified. Later Dixie finally succeeded in killing herself…

Feet in restraints, Ward 81, Oregon State Hospital. Salem, Oregon, 1976.


And the one that made you angry ?
Maya Mercer : Lewis Hine’s, Child Labor, the subject makes me angry, not the beauty of his photographs. His photographs denounce child labor today. Whether it is young migrant farmworkers toiling in our state or millions of children laboring in Asian cotton fields or on African tobacco and cocoa plantations, the struggle continues…


A key image in your personal pantheon ?
Maya Mercer : Untitled film still # 93 by Cindy Sherman 1981 part of the Centerfolds series. Whatever it means to me, It’s a feeling I know too well and I don’t want to forget.


The quality needed to be a good photographer?
Maya Mercer : Never back down from your vision despite all obstacles!

The secret of the perfect image, if it exists ?
Maya Mercer : A momentary moment of madness

The person you would dream of photographing ?
Maya Mercer : The Cherokee girl next door.

An essential photo book ?
Maya Mercer : “Raised by wolves” by Jim Goldberg

The camera of your beginnings ?
Maya Mercer :  Polaroid One Step rainbow SX-70.

The one you use today ?
Maya Mercer : I work mostly with analogue cameras and use several cameras the oldest is from 1953 and the most recent from 1980.

Maya Mercer : The Blues.

The best way to disconnect for you?
Maya Mercer : Swimming in the wilderness.

Your greatest quality ?
Maya Mercer : Instinct.

An image to illustrate a new banknote ?
Maya Mercer : A portrait of a young girl in transition from my Cult series « American Hunger ».


The job you would not have liked to do ?
Maya Mercer : any 9 to 5 job

Your greatest extravagance as a photographer ?
Maya Mercer : Carrying a shotgun on shoots to protect myself.

The values you wish to share through your images ?
Maya Mercer : That’s not for me to say.

The city, country or culture you dream of discovering ?
Maya Mercer : Aliens.

The place you never get tired of ?
Maya Mercer : where I currently live in the Appalachians, North Carolina.

Your biggest regret ?
Maya Mercer : That I didn’t get to learn Kung Fu at a young age. It might’ve saved my ass in a few very tough situations. I think every young girl should learn Kung Fu starting at age 7.

Instagram, Tik Tok or snapchat ?
Maya Mercer : Instagram.

Color or B&W?
Maya Mercer : Both

Daylight or artificial light?
Maya Mercer : Daylight, golden hour.

The most photogenic city according to you ?
Maya Mercer : Can’t say otherwise everyone would go there.

If God existed would you ask him to pose for you, or would you opt for a selfie with him ?
Maya Mercer : I think he’s got more important things to deal with.

The image that represents for you the current state of the world ?
Maya Mercer : A photograph from my “Martyr chronicles” series called STIGMA.© MAYA MERCER – COURTESY THE ARTIST

What is missing in today’s world ?
Maya Mercer :  The truth.

And if everything was to be remade ?
Maya Mercer : Everytime you try to remake something it ends up being worse..look at Frankenstein !

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