Teen Angst, Culture And Absolute Memorability - Meet Instaqueen Zombienanny
Art class trash turned Insta-art queen – how Meki became Zombienanny.
In the social media era we're living in, absolutely everyone has a platform to display their creativity. Instagram, formerly a place for posting blurry pictures of your dog, has now transformed into an online powerhouse of aspiring photographers, putting blood sweat and tears into each and every post.
With a repertoire this big, competition is inevitable. If your work doesn't excel in this giant virtual Hunger Games, your chances of going pro are close to zero, but whilst piling the pressure onto creatives, this saturated environment also fuels their ambition, determination and desire to be different.
We were lucky enough to grab a coffee in Munich with one of our favorite stand-out faces. Meet Meki – better known under the alias @Zombienanny – an uber-inspiring German shutterbug, artfully merging the lines of fashion, culture and emotion.
What's your story? How did you get into photography and what inspired your unique name?
It all started when my dad gifted me a DSLR camera a while back. At first I didn't really care for it – it just sat on my table collecting dust and not being used. Time went by and I started working for this sneaker store called Kickz Monaco and my boss asked me to provide some photo content. The people I used to shoot with thought my stuff was pretty cool so I started using my DSLR and things kinda just took off from there.
About the name, my family call me Nanny at home, and Zombie because of the rap collective Flatbush Zombies that I used to be, and still am, very into. I was tired of changing my name a billion times and was longing for something stable I could make my own. I actually thought the name was shit – too random – but it was already attached to me so changing it would have just caused confusion. So I ran with it.
What's your fave photoshoot to date?
My favorite shoot was the black and white series I actually did for my uni application. The series dealt with the topic of teen angst and the kind of youthful existential crisis that everyone around me was seemingly going through at the time. When I shoot I like putting emotions or themes that interest me into my work; I want to convey my thoughts and emotions in my photography so the viewer can relate and understand. The time was pretty melancholic, everyone was kinda lost so I was like hey, I definitely want to transfer this but also want to add a fashion component because that's an interest of mine too, so yeah...that's how that came about.
Who's your favourite photographer?
I don't necessarily know any super famous photographers like most people probably do. I prefer to look at the works of smaller, rather unknown Instagram photographers – that's what influences me. There's this one guy in particular, Vitali Gelwich, who's work I like a lot. I like his imagery, so I'd definitely say him.
How would you describe your photography?
I'm still trying stuff out. I definitely want people to look at my work and be like, "yeah, that's her". It should have some sort of memorability, but I don't know what name to put on it. It'll come someday for sure.
Would you say that your work mirrors your personal style?
Yeah, kinda. Oftentimes I'm in charge of the styling, like, I think it's cool when someone wants to chime in but I like it to go my way cause I'm kinda hard-headed. But yes, it reflects how I dress, or at least how I'd like to dress.
What labels inspire you and which brands would you like to work with?
Definitely a lot of smaller brands – you know, the ones all over Instagram. I don't have a specific example but also Gucci's latest lookbook was pretty gnarly. The visual language wasn't something unattainable so I was pretty fascinated by that because it's on a level I could reach, you know what I mean? I would love to shoot for Gucci, that's a life goal.
How do you plan your shoots?
I like it when everything is spontaneous and just comes together naturally. I'm not the type to put stress on myself or the models – you know, the one's that are like, "be there then and there, do this, that and the other" – so I mostly just write down ideas when I have them and then use my intuition to integrate them into the shoots. Many of the models are friends of mine so when I have an idea for a shoot, I'll hit them up, and if they're down then it just happens, easy and relaxed, and I think it shows in the photographs as well. It's really important to me that my work is as authentic as possible and not insincere. The chemistry between model and photographer needs to be right too so if I don't know them, I'll talk to them, create a feeling for them and just go ahead and do my thing.
If you could choose anyone to photograph, who would it be?
No doubt about it, it would be A$AP Rocky. I love A$AP, he's so handsome and I'd just love to photograph him. Besides him, I'd also want Kendrick Lamar for sure cause he's not that photogenic, like he rarely posts pictures of himself, so getting that chance would be pretty cool, but definitely A$AP Rocky.
At the beginning of the year, you had your first vernissage. How did that come together?
The other artist I shared the space with, Emanuel, just came back from a trip to Ghana that pretty much filled him with inspiration and changed his mentality of the entire continent. So he wanted to share that and get a venue and, because he knew that I was a photographer and wanted to show support, he offered me my personal space to display some of my work as well. He told me about the topic and vibe he was going for and I thought it was rad, and just like that I was in.
Earlier you mentioned that you style the models as well as shoot them. Which do you prefer, styling or shooting?
Both. I used to think that I didn't have a single creative bone in me cause I was trash in art class so I didn't even consider going anywhere near a creative field. But when I started styling and shooting I realized that I found complete expression so it's hard to tell which I like more – I love both of them. Plus the play into each other. But really, it all depends on the topic; if I have to style for something I know nothing about I won't have as much fun, so I'd say photography.
So, what's the next big project you're working on?
I'm currently working on a project with another artist featuring the topic of ethnic diversity in hair. The artist herself has a mixed background and wants to display multiplicity of different hair types and all the frustration people's behaviour and prejudice towards her hair has caused her. And because she isn't a photographer herself, she needed someone to convey her thoughts and emotions visually, so she asked me if I was interested. For the shoot we got a bunch of gorgeous black girls and shot their hair and it was just beautiful, the models were so stunning. We shot last night and the results were amazing.
Speaking of art photography, would you say that your culture and ethnicity influence your work?
Definitely. With all the racial tensions going on in the states and stuff like that's it's hard to say. All of a sudden being black has gotten this whole new meaning: suddenly it's the cool thing to be and that wasn't always the case. And I'm not talking about the '60s and stuff like that – like recent history. When I was younger, I remembered always wanting straight hair and to fit in but now it's all different. Being black is... it's hard to explain. But yes, my culture definitely has a lot of influence on my work, and since being black kinda ties into that, I'd say yes to that too.
Do you see yourself more as a fashion photographer or an art photographer?
More art. I could imagine making a way for myself in fashion too because that does interest me a lot. But I'd still say art because my pictures display too much of my emotional, inner side to be labeled solely as fashion photography.
Lets play a round of quick questions:
Analogue or DSLR?
Film or photography?
Streetwear vs. high fashion?
Studio shoots vs outdoor shoots?
Last question: how would you describe yourself in three words?
I have such an odd self concept. I don't know, fuck I actually want to know this for myself. Three words... I don't know – cool, cool and cool? Just kidding.
Thanks for talking to us!
Thanks for having me.
Follow Meki on Instagram @Zombienanny !