They say… All ways lead to Rome… Well guess what... Jesse and mine surely did… Once again… Way sooner then expected… Only 2 months after releasing our adventures from Turkey we decided to end the year 2018 with some fireworks. As I’m recapitulating this past week I receive a message from one of our Italian friends saying the story has already leaked in the Italian press. ‘Belgian model Marisa Papen and Australian photographer Jess Walker tried to shoot nude photos in St-Peter Square’. I want to say sorry to the cops for the tiny lies we had to make up. Because instead of ’tried’, we actually ’succeeded’.
Reunion Thursday A beautiful pinkish sky when I flew into the city. First thing I had to do was get an espresso. And wow, Mamma Mia, I’m in Italy!!! I pick up my luggage and take a taxi to the Airbnb where we would be staying for the next 4 nights. It’s located outside the buzz of the city, a 15 minute walk down to the Vatican. This place should give us the solitude and inspiration we needed to get this trip started. The apartment is based on the highest floor of the building, overlooking the St-Peter’s Basilica. Right at the moment the host is showing me the terrace, the lights of the Dome turn on. It was quite a symbolic moment. I decide to go for a run and have a look at the square before Jesse would arrive a few hours later. When he did, we hug each other and briefly talk about the past few months. We are both exhausted so decide to go to bed and wake up early in the morning.
Preparation Friday After a good night of sleep we feel rejuvenated, ready to take on Rome! We lay out all the props we took with us and start drawing the storyboard. After that we head to city for a huge walk, to collect all the missing items and to get a proper plate of oily pasta, of course! Nothing else crazily exciting happened on Preparation Friday. We ended the day watching the movie ‘Killing Jesus’.
Crosswalking Saturday Our motors are still slowly heating up, we’re not in full power mode yet. So we decide to take the day as it comes, walk a bit more, get inspired by the energy of the city and again have a bunch more Italian delicacies. After dinner we feel charged to take the first frame. We would head to the Vatican with the cross (that Jesse had made in Bali and transported all the way to Rome, quite genius in my opinion). We order an uber… The uber driver gave us a couple strange looks when he saw us waiting for him on the boardwalk holding this giant cross. He didn’t ask any questions and helped us to fit the cross into his car. We ask him to stop at a flower shop before arriving at our final destination. We buy some old stalks to create our very own crown of thorns. We arrive at the Vatican, unload the cross and sit ourselves down on a bench. It’s raining gently. We end up sitting on that bench for about 2 hours. Till at one point our moment is there. I undress, Jesse positions the cross upon my shoulder and I walk a few times back and fore worth dragging the cross over the cobblestones. I throw the cross on the floor, redress myself and we walk away. Order an Uber and upload the images straight away when getting back to the apartment. We were both elated with the result and couldn’t believe how smoothly this operation was done. Happy faces! Teatime! Bedtime!
Sad Sunday Last night I had a dream about a photo with Papa Francesco in the background. As the Pope does on every Sunday (when he’s in town) he praises over the square at noon. After checking on the website of the Vatican it indeed seemed he was around. Lucky us. I prepare some cinnamony oatmeal, Jesse brews some coffee. We put on our raining coats to face the storm. We get through security right in time. Hundreds of umbrellas color St. Peters Square. Papa Francesco speaks from the highest window. You could barely see him. I thought it was a bit cynical. To be literally speaking down. If I would be the Pope (Yes you can laugh) I would want to be in between the people… After 5 minutes he wrapped up his prayer… On the contrary of the Pope we didn’t find our window to capture the photo we had in mind. I was a bit bummed. Jesse said: ‘It was not supposed to happen, Marisa, no worries, let’s grab an espresso or a juice or something’ Stubborn as I am, I kept standing in the middle of the square in the pouring rain for another 10 minutes. As I was standing there, one of the many beggars you can find on and around the square caught my eye. A barefoot gypsy lady with a completely deformed posture. Tears were rolling down her cheeks as she was shaking her soaking wet paper cup for some coins. All the colorful umbrellas were just passing her, from the left and the right. It was like nobody even saw her… I felt like I was caught in a cloud of dark energy. I thought to myself. Imagine if the Vatican would be a place that would actually help people. Imagine if all these huge churches would open their doors for people in need. To feed them and give them shelter. A real place of light, love and warmth… I was disgusted when looking down and seeing trampled Museum-entry tickets on the floor. And then when looking around, seeing all the stores selling religious souvenirs for ridiculous amounts of money. A billion dollar industry based on lies and murder and theft. Not even a gelato could change the mood of Sad Sunday. We went back to our Airbnb and reflected on our thoughts. It rained the entire day.
Blue Monday Even though it wasn’t raining on Blue Monday, Sad Sunday was still lingering in my head. The pressure kind of starting to build up as well. We only did one photo in 3 days… Pretty bad statistics… So once again we leave the door of our Airbnb before the sun even rises. Straight to the Vatican. The wet cobblestones of St-Peters square were reflecting the sky. Only a handful of people were crossing the square each minute. But every minute we waited the busier it was becoming. There was no time to reconsider. I put the 3 testaments and the book of the Virgin Marie on the ground, take of my clothes, throw them away, sit down on the books, crawl up and round my back to create a feeling of hopelessness. ‘Got it’ I hear Jesse say. I do a little sprint and grab my clothes. I’m right in the middle of putting on my pants when suddenly 2 Polizia cars drive rapidly towards us. Another 4 cops approach us running. Holding their batons firmly. “Passport please!!!!!” Jesse is still laying on a beach towel on the chilly ground. He is formatting the card and taking some new frames afterwards of solely the books. The cops are getting sligthly redheaded now and start yelling. Jesse finally stands up. I pick up the books. “Passport please!!!!” Jesse says: “I don’t have my passport with me”. “Why you don’t have passport” asks one of the cops. “Because it’s still in the apartment… I never carry my passport with me” Jesse answers. “Then we have extra problem” the cop replies “You guys are in some serious trouble…” he adds. We get escorted to their office just around the corner of the square. The first thing we have to do is empty our backpacks. They inspect the books and understand that what we were doing could be a bit more ‘offensive’ then originally thought. Nude on the bible… Ay ay ay… They mumble with each other in Italian. ‘Nuda, libro, protesta’ is all I understand. After emptying our bags we have to clear our pockets. I take out my lip balm and my phone. Jesse does the same. Out of his left side pocket comes a dirty, old, wet 5 euro biljet. Not sure whether it was a reflex or not. But Jesse looks at the 5euro, raises it up in the air, not too far from the inspectors face and asks “You want it?” I was watching this movement from the sideline. Almost seemed in slowmotion. I was like: ‘Ooooooooh no…’ But it was already done… The inspector was shouting in Jesse’s face. He went from surprisingly sympathic to completely furious. They take Jesse outside. The inspector stays in the room with me. He says “Never do this in Italy, it’s VERY VERY VERY INAPPROPRIATE” I tell him: “I’m sorry, I know, he was just joking” He seems to be cooling down again slowly. After a couple of minutes Jesse appears back into the room. Apparently they strip-searched him and now it was my turn. All the male cops leave the room and a very friendly Poliziana makes me take of my clothes. Nothing to be found, obviously. On to the next step… We drive to another office to make up the report. In the meantime, it’s cell-time. As expected. There we are again, behind the bars. A tiny little cell. Dirt and ashes on the floor. Jesse and I look each other in the eyes and burst out in laughter. After about 2 hours, the inspector approaches our cell holding his phone in his hand. He turns the screen towards us, on his screen, the image of me pulling up my Burka in the Sophia Hagia. I thought to myself: “Oh shit, that’s not gonna make it any easier”, he asked me to get out of the cell and explain myself for this act. I explained them. They asked if I was part of an organization. I told them “Nope, it’s just me and Jesse”. They send me back to the cell. Half an hour passes by… In the meantime they decided they had to confiscate our Airbnb. That was going to be interesting. All the props were just laying there, exposed in bright daylight. But we didn’t have a choice. We told them the address of our Airbnb and drove together with them to our home in Rome. 4 cop cars, 8 cops in total, and our so called lawyer, who didn’t speak a word of English. The elevator of the building didn’t work so they had to all take stairs to the 5th floor. Some of them weren’t too happy about that, haha. The inspector unlocks the door, one by one they all get in. “Nice view” the inspector says as he looks out over the terrace. He immediately sees the wooden cross so they all head outside in a line. I was holding my breath. Of course they wanted to know where we got the cross from. Jesse said: “I had it made in Bali and brought it with me”. 2 of the cops stayed on the terrace inspecting the cross while the others were going to do their tour inside. They started collecting all the props we had collected over the past few days. Including: The cross, The fake blood, The priest outfits, A couple of bibles, Jesse’s sketchbook, The rosaries, The crown of thorns, The rope to tie me onto the cross, And… Black Baby Jesus… I must say, it was quite amusing to see them getting more surprised by every item they would find. They take pictures of all the evidence. At first it seemed they wanted to take the cross with them but then they most likely all agreed that it would be too much of a hassle to get this thing down the stairs. So they just took a picture of it as well. Then they inspected all the rooms of our place, went through our luggage, took Jesse’s passport to complete the report. We all headed back out again. The neighbors had a pensive thought on their faces and seemed a bit frightened. They must have thought we were major criminals. We get back to the police office. We get locked up again. They ask if want an espresso. Pretty amazing… We didn’t get that offered in Egypt, that’s for sure. The next stop would be the court house where they were going to take our fingerprints and mugshots. We are 10 hours further from the moment we got busted now. We look jagged, but we are both still in an excellent mood, and just go through the whole procedure as we’ve done this a hundred times. To be clear, this is not the case. When we get back to police station, the report is waiting for us. We sign a few copies. And that was it. We were free again. Hallelujah! Pizza Marinara!!!
Escape Tuesday In Dutch we have an expression ‘A Donkey doesn’t bump into the same stone twice’ Meaning: You wouldn’t make the same mistake 2 times… Well…
Blue Monday wasn’t even digested yet and before we knew it we had the cops chasing us again. We literally ran our hearts out.
This is how we got ourselves in trouble part two: We chose a taxi driver that looked cool enough to let us alone for 2 minutes in his car. The first guy we asked was straight away up for the job. He parked his car in front of Il Vittoriano. Only 30 seconds into the shoot a guy knocked on the window of the taxi. The only thing I was wearing was a pair of red heels, a rosary and sunnies. I told him to get out of the way. As soon as I did that, he lifted up his jacket to show his badge. Jesse just kept shooting. The agent grabbed Jesse’s arm and pulled him aside aggressively. I smacked down the door. Got dressed as fast as I could. Stepped out of the taxi. Put 20euros in the taxi drivers hand and walked over to Jesse who was talking with the agent. Jesse looked into my eyes and asked ‘Are you ready to run’, I said ‘Hell yeah’ Jesse yelled ‘RUN!!!!’ we took off as woody woodpecker would do.. The cops jumped back in their car to chase us. We ran across Via del Teatro di Marcello, without even looking. Hoping no car or vespa would hit us. We disappeared in the labyrinth of roads leading into the old city. We kept running for 5 minutes and jumped into an old cafe to hide. We were completely high on adrenaline and out of breath. What a way to start the day…
What happened on the afternoon of Escape Tuesday doesn’t leave much to the imagination… (images 10-23) I know… These photos might be shocking to many and they are very different from how I usually get portrayed but listen here… I’m 100% sure this is nothing compared to what happens in reality.
“I’m conveying my compassion for everyone who has been a victim of the church. Sexually/mentally/physically…”
I was 12 when a very close friend opened up about what had happened to her when she was about 6 years old. (my stomach is turning while I’m writing this) I was disgusted, in tears and at the same time in complete disbelieve. I had gone to church with my grandmom so many times. I was baptized, I did my Holy Communion, in fact I was part of this whole thing. I couldn’t understand, if this was true and people knew about this, the church still had so many followers. A few years later my boyfriend told me a similar story about what had happened to him when he was a communicant. The pain I saw in his eyes, pierced through my heart. A year later there was a whole media-storm about an uncountable number of similar cases all over the world. I started researching and questioning. I have found some answers but I do not understand… How it is possible that an institution that’s praising to be the light has shown to be in fact darker then anything on this world… is still operating today?
Wandering Wednesday Wandering Wednesday was a smooth one. Much needed after the intensity of those 2 past days. Just photos, pizza and prosecco. Basta.
Vespa Thursday When in Rome spend one day on a Vespa. At least! Cruise down to the Via Appia Antica, Circle around the Colosseum, Jump in one of the many fountains along the way, Make an Espresso-pitstop, And visit any church to lay eyes on pure hypocrisy… I know I already noted this on Sad Sunday but after having visited the San Paolo Fuori Le Mura, a second wave of abomination hit me. If Jesus would have set foot in here, he would be in tears like that barefoot gypsy lady standing in the rain on St-Peters square. Jesus and his disciples lived a life in poverty. He told his followers not to put treasure on this earth but in heaven. The church disobeyed this. So if you think about it… Even the Body of Christ, the main image of their constitution, the body that they worship and pray upon has been raped, abused and exploited. To me, that exactly sums up what the Church is all about. A structure built on perversion, covered in gold… Hopefully about to collapse sooner than later…
Bloody Friday We still had one 1 liter of blood left and I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it. The only thing we still needed to find was a church. Shouldn’t be too tricky in Rome. Tough there were some requirements the church had to fulfill: The church shouldn’t be too big, this way the puddle of blood would stand out enough. The church shouldn’t be gated The church shouldn’t be under the surveillance of a dozen of cameras The church shouldn’t be next to a police office... So for the last time, Jesse and I put our running shoes on and went for a walk throughout the tiniest streets of Rome. In search of our church. Today we had this at-ease mindset of ‘If this image has to be taken, we find the church, if not, so be it’… Walking and talking and walking and espresso and talking… And then… One hour before sunset Santa Barbara found us. She was the perfect match. She was situated on a cute little courtyard, on the side of small shopping street. 4 pretty plants leading up to her entrance. She wasn’t spied upon, nor was she located close to the Carabinieri. She was the one. She could be our partner in crime. We had to be patient before approaching her though. It was way too crowded at this point so we ordered some vegan dark chocolate gelato and sat ourselves down on the street, close but not too close. We talked and we watched her. Then the night fell. It was still too crowded. The moment wasn’t right… We stood up and walked away. It was painful but sometimes that’s what you have to do… Over some prosecco and spaghetti fungi we changed our minds… Could have had to do more with the prosecco then with the spaghetti but we knew we had see her again… As soon as we licked out our plates we headed into her direction. The street was quite calm now. Not completely lifeless but there might be a one-minute gap that would allow us to complete the mission. She was lit up beautifully. I walked over to her, opened my backpack, poured out the blood and went out of the frame. Jesse clicked a few times and we left. Without even looking back. We kind of abused her, I have to admit. that’s what happens when you spend too much time in and around the Church, I guess… But then again, no biggie… We’ll go to the confession chair next week and ask for forgiveness.
Separation Saturday The holy week came to an end. It was time for Jesse and I to say goodbye. I was going to Napoli for a day. Jesse would stick around in Roma for another 2 before flying back to Asia. We chose a restaurant close to Termini station to get one last plate of Arrabiata. Extra garlic, extra chili, extra olive oil. Arrivederci Jesse. I’m very proud of what we created together. Till we meet again. Probably sooner than we would expect.
— And to everyone else, a Merry Christmas. May you be surrounded with true love and light,
I’ve been rolling and dancing around in front of Nicolas’ lens an uncountable number of times now. The most memorable moments, for me at least, happened when we were on this once-in-life-time trip throughout Chile. Below I’m sharing some of the images that Nicolas captured along this travel. And I’d also like to share the news that Nicolas will be hosting a workshop on the 26th and 27th of January in La Flèche, France - where I will be one of the models.
Note: So what I mean with desexualizing the body and wearing nudity in an animalistic way. While reading this sentence a lot of people will have a “she’s talking bullshit-moment” because … Yes I have done the cover of Playboy…. And I do create images that play around the topic of sexuality. I’ve never said I was an anti-sexual human being. That’s impossible. Being sexual is part of our nature. But what I want to say is, there’s more to nudity then just using this to express sensuality or sexuality. For example, during the interview with Lea I could have held my body in a completely different way. I could have straightened my back and push my boobs in the air. Unlike doing that, I curved myself up a bit. Just not to be too offensive - or too much ‘in your face’. That’s what I mean with carrying nudity in a certain way. After reading these words, you might still think I’m a slut or attention-seeker. But honestly, I don’t really care. And what I ask myself then... Are you sure these are your thoughts? Or have you been brainwashed? I mean, what is it that makes you feel so uncomfortable with seeing a naked girl sitting on a chair?
Anyways... I learned so much from being nude…. It has the power to bring you back to the core of your existence. If you allow yourself to be comfortable with the body you’re in. It’s about shedding everything. Going to the bare minimum. Exposing your skin to all the elements. Feeling the wind, the water, the earth. Being like an animal. Part of nature. And yes; at a certain point in history there was evolution. We started wearing clothes. And I‘m not saying I’m against evolution. Would be kind of hypocrite writing down these words on my computer while having a hot tea. But then again, who says the evolution we’ve been through was the right evolution…? I would say, once you’re close by an Ocean/Lake/Sea again, jump in the water the way you came to this Earth. Let’s talk again then. Much love, Marisa
Collab with MrGeometric Limited Edition Canvas Print
37cm x 25cm // Limited Edition of 25 // $97 56cm x 37cm // Limited Edition of 15 // $197 74cm x 49cm // Limited Edition of 8 // $347 111cm x 74cm // Limited Edition of 2 // $697
This piece was created by MrGeometric in collaboration with Marisa Papen. The "in my bubble." piece is a limited edition production, only 50 of these will ever be produced! "in my bubble" is printed on 300gsm woven polyster fabric canvas with eco-friendly ink, wrapped around a wooden frame. This piece includes hardware to hang on a wall.
Hi Marisa & Jesse, thanks in advance for your cooperation and the great pictures you made, I absolutely love them. Jesse:"Hi ***, Thankyou very much & no problem in answering these questions." Marisa: "Hello again:)" I've seen that you've used the shots of Marisa in Egypt and Ethiopia on your ENKI brand website. My apologies if some of the questions might seem a bit straightforward, but I want to have the story behind it completely right and I don't know the exact history. 1) Can you explain what your relation to ENKI is/what your exact role in it is. You started the business yourself? You are only doing the marketing/photography to showcase the eyewear? Jesse: "I’m the owner and creative director of ENKI. I do all visuals for the label, like photography, web & campaign concepts etc. I started ENKI about ten years ago by myself in Australia but now run it out of beautiful Bali. To answer your second question. No, I don’t just do marketing and photography to market ENKI. It’s never been about money or selling sunglasses, but It always has been about creating something amazingly different and showing the world the beautiful and fascinating people I shoot. I feel like I’m more so marketing my subjects and their stories rather than ENKI’s. I didn’t make money for the first eight years of the brand's ten-year history. I funded all of the campaigns myself just because I was so obsessed with creating beautiful photos." 2) What is for you the connection between handcrafted ENKI eyewear and the pictures you make in the photography campaigns? What are you looking for in a model and in a setting/location? Jesse: "If it’s a conceptual ENKI campaign, I’ll go to where I feel naturally drawn, and that’s mostly to the ancient places and cultures of the world. I love to shoot real people who then become the models, whether that’s the Tribes of Africa or the Gondoliers of Italy. To me this is real beauty, nothing is purer. I feel people can be triggered in a very positive way seeing these kinds of people in shoots. " 3) I've seen both pictures in your campaigns which can be described as more traditional (models in swimwear, Venice gondeliers) compared to the nude shots of Marisa. What sets Marisa (and the photos you took of her) apart from the other ones? Jesse: "What sets Marisa apart is her unique look and message to the world of self-empowerment and freedom, it’s something I promote through ENKI as well, and I truly believe this message is what the world needs right now. Fortunately, fate crossed our paths so we can both bring about this message together. She is also the only woman brave enough to stand with me and do these shoots. What sets these shoots apart is they have never been done before and will never probably be never done again, at least in our lifetimes and in a world where everything has been done so much its numbing. I like to think that’s very special." 1. I absolutely love the stunning picture at the mosque as the composition and lights are just perfect – which might be a bit odd as it looks like it took some time posing for the right picture, but I assume of course that given the crowds the picture had to be made in a split second.For Jesse, can you describe more of the challenges as a photographer making this picture and how the moment went? And also in general how working with Marisa is in such a challenging environment? As it's a far cry from quietly taking a nude snap at a beach for a shoot for a magazine or so! Jesse: "If you’ve ever been to the Sophia Hagia, you'll know there’s never a day without 1000’s of people being in there at all times. It was all done very spontaneously. Inside the mosque, we were hidden in plain sight. There is also a serene calmness inside which helped allow everything to unfold the way that is was supposed to. We even went back for a second time the next day because we weren't happy with the first lot of shots. However, I didn’t feel like this was that challenging compared to the rooftop shot overlooking the Mosque ( attached ) For that shot to happen a lot of planning and coordinating went into it. Luckily we have some excellent connections in Istanbul, without these, it most definitely wouldn’t have been possible." Marisa, the picture which you sent me, was it taken during the first shoot or the second at Hagia Sophia? This was the second take. Marisa: "We decided not to use any photos of the first attempt. " 2. Question to both Marisa and Jesse. Marisa, you describe Jesse and yourself as the “modern-day Bonnie and Clyde”. How does it feel to be constantly on guard? To deal with the excitement and possible fears of landing in trouble? Is it something that only gives you energy, or at times is also draining? Marisa: "Of course it’s draining. The focus that goes into these kind of adventures is insane. You give so much of yourself. It’s only when you get back home (read another place) that you realize how much energy it took to go through all the hassle... As for during the trip, all the escalades and struggles give me loads of energy. There’s this mindset of nothing willing to take no for an answer, almost like kids. We push each other a lot. " Jesse: "Actually, we both describe ourselves as Bonny & Clyde. It can be extremely testing mentally, physically and also very much so between us. But It’s always a real adventure with Marisa sort of like a vintage James bond film which makes it a lot of fun too. When we get the shots, it’s the most incredible feeling in the world but like Marisa said you don’t realise at the time because you're on autopilot, It’s not until you leave that you understand what you’ve put yourself through. I remember sitting in the airport at Doha after Egypt and having my first beer in years. It was a very surreal moment reflecting on what had just taken place." 3. Question to both Marisa and Jesse.Perhaps more than in Egypt, Turkey has recently been quite a lot in the news when it comes to jailing (innocent) people just because the government thinks they are a danger to the country. These also include foreign nationals such as a German journalist, an American preacher and German and Turkish Amnesty International workers being jailed for many months without fair trial, on what many say are pumped up charges.Did you have any fears of ending up in a similar situation before the trip? Or did you ever have second thoughts during the trip that this might be a bit too dangerous? Marisa: "I don’t follow the news, and I know Jesse doesn’t do so either. I guess in a way this plays in our advantage. If you do these kind of things, there can not even be 1% of your mind resisting. You have to go full in. No doubt. Sometimes obviously it happens, it happened to me when we were about to go in the mosque the second time but then you have someone by your side (Jesse) who pulls you through. Sometimes it goes the other way around. It’s teamwork. " Jesse: "Personally speaking, I have always had a strange love of fear and I feel comfortable being close to danger, so I like to walk that path when doing these shoots. I also do believe that going in with the right intent will allow us to always be okay. However, some things are just not meant to be. We did travel to an incredible ancient location that’s is very unstable politically, we tried to shoot for days, but we soon realised there was no way we were going to be able to do it. I firmly believe that we weren't supposed to do that shoot because of the real dangers involved. It was tough to pull away and leave, but in the end, we knew we had to. After hearing about what's been happening recently in Turkey, I’m reminded that I feel it wasn’t meant to be." 4. To Marisa, I quote: “At one point the police had come to our hotel in Istanbul interrogating the staffabout our location just a day after we had left.”Was your next destination given away? Did you feel from that moment as being followed/chased down by the authorities, as obviously at that moment they would have had your name? Marisa:"We did feel being chased. We talked to some people to give us access to certain places we wanted to shoot at. It’s always tricky to trust people you have no clue about who they are but it’s the risk we have to take." 5. To Marisa again,I quote: “At a location, we can't disclose we tried to shoot for three days straight. On the third day they had hired extra security. Literally all the peaks of the hills were covered with armed men.”Those security guards/armed officers were hired/dispatched there just because they knew that you and Jesse were in the area? Did any of the people there – including the man that followed you without saying much – say anything in the end why you had to leave? Marisa: "They were already there. The first day we went to the location we checked it out, looked at the options, what time of the day we should go, which angles we would shoot from. etc. Because it was out of the season when we travelled to Turkey there weren’t too many tourists so the second day that we went, they recognized us straight away. I think the authorities knew we were in town since we took a plane there. They wouldn’t move away from us. We never had the chance to realize any of the shots we had in mind. He said multiple times we had to leave or we would get into a lot of trouble, obviously we wouldn’t listen. We had come so far already. So we went back the third day. And indeed that day, as soon as we arrived to the location the guy pointed with his 2 fingers to his eyes and pointed out the other armed men on the peaks of the hills. It was like a movie scene sort off. Jesse took his camera and snapped an image of one of the guys to see if they were carrying guns. They were. Serious ones. After 5/6 hours of persistence we left." 6. To both Marisa and Jesse, you didn't had any problems exiting the country? Do you think you will be able to come back to Turkey after this, and would you be willing to do? (as you also described the hospitality of the people and fantastic sights in the country) Marisa: "Probably not. It’s a shame, but it’s the price we have to pay I guess." Jesse: "I really hope not but it will be interesting seeing how it all plays out that’s for sure." 7. To both Marisa and Jesse, especially many people in urban centres and on the coast in Turkey argue that the country has become more illiberal under Erdogan, with personal freedom being infringed or limited. Did it play a role in choosing Turkey as a country for this adventure? If not, why Turkey? Marisa: "Jesse chose the country of destination. And in particular to shoot at the place we did not shoot in the end (question 5) So after this didn’t work out, we had to get creative and travel to other sites where we could create a possible story." Jesse: "There’s an incredible ancient site in Turkey that I had based the whole campaign concept around. I had spent months and months visualizing it. I had even drawn out all the frames I was going to shoot of Marisa. However, we had no idea how dangerous and politically unstable it was going to be. It was empty when we arrived but heavily secured which added to the frustration of not being able to shoot there. After three days and three attempts we surrendered to the fact that we weren't going to able to do it, I went numb, and instantly went into a massive creative block, luckily Marisa stepped up, pulled us through and created the majority of the frames of the campaign. She’s amazing like that, very talented and hardworking." 8. Marisa, What are your own opinions on the current state of affairs in Turkey when it comes to this issue? Did the local people you met along the way perhaps encouraged you, felt emboldened (as it is easier to try this as a foreigner than as a Turkish citizen given possible repercussions) or did they try to warn you and talk you out of such things given the current state of politics? Marisa: "Especially the people we met in Istanbul seemed super scared of what’s about to come. Frightened even. They were warning us about how serious and rapidly things are changing and that what we were doing could get us into even more trouble then what happened in Egypt. In a way they tried to talk us out of it but on the other hand they were applauding our actions." 9. Marisa, are you afraid of another shit storm so to say for posing like this in a mosque, and offending sensitivities of Muslims? Marisa: "Not afraid at all. The universe has got my back." 10. What would you say to critics who ask why you can't pose nude instead in another place and have to do this in a mosque? Marisa: "Like I said many times before, how can a body, created by God be offensive?" 11. How were the reactions in the weeks/months following your Jerusalem photoshoot? As also there you got quite some angry replies (and encouraging support as well!) after posing on a rooftop in front of the Wailing Wall and Al Aqsa Mosque. That didn't deter you from doing it again? Marisa: "The shoot in Jerusalem was a few months after the Turkey trip. But no, I’m not thinking about stopping just yet ;) The reactions were intense, and it’s normal, it’s a big barrier we have to break. I am aware that it’s going to take more then a few years to change our perception. Probably I won’t even be on this planet anymore before anything is changing in the direction of personal freedom. But with this life that has been given to me, I’m willing to risk everything to help to create this shift this planet desperately needs."
First of all… This is not a scream for attention. This is not provoking to provoke. This is a message for humanity. Praying for Equality. And probably also now for our own safety (Jesse’s and mine)
The whole idea behind these campaigns is to push the boundaries society has built up around us. To break free from everything that is holding us back; our limited belief systems, our religions, our skin colour, etc.
As soon as we come to this Earth, we get pushed onto a path. A path that we might not even want to follow. Depending on where we are born everything is decided for us, before we even get the chance to think for ourselves.
This is all about a message, and the message is all about making people think for themselves through our imagery. We're trying to help people break free of their mental imprisonment by the governments and religions of this planet. We have all become so blinded and dumified that we just accept. We do not question anything anymore. Everything is controlled, manipulated. Follow the rules, follow the books, follow the leader, leader, leader follow the leader… (sorry got a little distracted there)
The word religion derives from the Latin word religio and it is connected to the notion of sacred. Ligare, meaning to re-connect, re-bind, re-tie. More specifically, to re-unite man to Divinity, to re-create a bond with the Divine. ‘Re-eligere’ which means to choose again God, to make a new choice again towards the Divine. Despite the slight differences, the origins of the word religion all indicate a re-connection, a re-bonding with the Divine or a re-turn to God. They also seem to indicate that we are in fact re-turning to something that is already there and simply needs to be re-connected to.
So by elaborating these actions, we are not trying to make fun of God. And we are defenitely not implying there is no God. Because God is you. You are the divine. We need to reconnect with ourselves. With our spirits. We are all one. One entity. Born under the same moon, under the same stars. A body, carrying a heart, carrying a mind. A body so powerful and capable of creating the most beautiful art and on the contrary, creating the most awful wars. Wars between stars…
After being blacklisted from Egypt, the same thing will probably happen for Turkey. But we're only getting warmed up, there's much more to come. A lot of people will probably call us insane by doing these kind of ‘stunts’ but once again, we want people to reconnect the dots. And honestly, there shouldn’t be anything wrong with showing the world what God created... On the contrary...
TURKISH DELIGHT Reunited in Turkey, Ready for another rumble in the jungle... It had been just over a year that Jesse and I split physical paths. We both knew there would be a part 2. We just didn’t know when, where or how exactly… but... it was bound to happen. On the 22nd of March the stars were aligned again and we found ourselves sharing gözlemes in the lively streets of Istanbul. Unlike Egypt, we didn’t have a solid plan this time. No preparation at all but an endless imagination and a pretty strong foundation…
The next morning at breakfast we put all our carts on the table and started planning the shots we wanted to visualize. -Sunbathing on Turkish Flag -Flashing bush in Hagia Sophia -Cappadoccia - hot air balloons -Chilling on roof in front of Mosque -Smoking Shisha -Bosphorus Boat Trip -Carpet Shop … List goes on.
Up next; Buying the Hijab.
This was for sure going to be the trickiest shot of all but we figured it would be best to start of with a big tackle. After asking around for a bit, the Grand Bazaar seemed like the place to be. Fake designer handbags, the most colorful carpets and Hijabs in every direction we looked... We enter a random store. As seasons change and people don’t, Jesse was still retrieving a lot of joy of putting me unexpectedly in the roll of his wife. So he pulled that card once again in the Hijab-shop. Jesse steps up and asks the sales-guy for a fully black burka. The guy asks: ‘for who’? Jesse says: ‘It’s for my wife, right here. We just got married and I want her skin exclusively for me now. Covered up from head to toe.’ A quirky approving smile appeared on the guys face. So I looked at him and smiled shyly, as a freshly married wife that’s about to be deprived from the sunlight would do. He ran into the basement which gave me just enough time to punch Jesse’s arm. A few seconds later the guy brought back a dozen different dresses. I tried on a few. The guy said ‘Güzel, Beautiful, Beautiful’ Jesse said ‘yes, amazing! Exactly what I want’. Seems like that deal was done. It also seemed that my opinion already wasn’t of big value anymore. So we leave the shop, accelerating, headed back to the hotel to prepare and fully accomplish the Mission.
TAKE 1 As we were getting closer to the Sophia, the crowd got thicker too. Even though my masquerade was on point, we got a lot of stares. First I thought it was the rhythm of our way of walking but then I realized where their eyes were really going - A scanning gaze down my brand-new outfit till their eyes would reach my feet - Then their eyes went back up, a few gears higher then on the way down, to give me a stare straight into my eyes. I could see them thinking ‘Girl, what are you doing??! What are you up to…’ ... We should’ve bought new shoes too. But we were so pumped up when we arrived back at the hotel, we just wanted to get into action asap - since I always travel light, the only options I had were my running shoes or my flip-flops. I went for the flip-flops. -Jesse helped me pull the dress to stretch it a little but still a few centimeters of the ground…-
After an humongous waiting line to enter, we got kind of caught off-guard with the uncountable amount of security cameras. They literally have every square centimeter covered. We wander around for a bit and end up finding a good corner on the first floor, still tons of people though. But the light was so incredible there, we decided to scoop it out for a few minutes. Jesse was adjusting the settings while I was just looking around and kind of mentally preparing myself. I removed my flip-flops and put them on the side. 15 minutes of taking tourist-snaps passed by. Conclusion: a moment with no-one around was never going to happen. We decided to wait for a guided group and while the guide was telling his story and everyone was paying full attention, it would be game-time!
A big group was lurking around the corner, approaching us. This was our chance. I could feel my heartbeat in my throat, hear it in my head. Jesse was holding his camera as if he was ready to pull the trigger. He looks with his left eye on the side of his lens and nods. I pull up my dress. 10 frames per second for 5 seconds. I drop my dress. Jesse nods again, turns around and starts walking, I follow. I ask him ‘Do you got it?’ He says ‘Yes, let’s go! Now!’ Without being stopped (surprisingly) we leave the Sophia.
TAKE 2 If there’s a take 1, there’s usually a take 2. After loading in the images that night, we weren’t as excited as we should have been. For some reason we didn’t get it exactly right. In one photo I didn’t like the expression on my face (way too tense) - another one wasn’t completely sharp, etc, etc. There was one we kind of liked but we basically both felt like we could have done better. We kept scrolling through them over and over again, till Jesse concluded: ‘Marisa, we have to go back…’ I was like: ‘No way, we’re not going back, we’re gonna get caught this time, I can feel it.’ He said, ‘Marisa, you have to trust me’. I was like: ‘No way, we gonna end up in jail again, next week I’m leaving for China, we didn’t even finish our Turkey-story, I don’t have time nor energy for jail’ He said: ‘Marisa, we have to go back’ I was like: ‘Ok, we go, whatever, but we’re gonna get caught’ While I was getting dressed I could just sense another Egypte-escapade coming up. But for some reason I did decide to trust upon Jesse’s intuition, so we left the hotel again, waited in line again. Entered the Sophia again… We stroll around for a bit, when we suddenly get hypnotized by the light shining through these giant wooden doors. Of course, these giant wooden doors happen to be right after the entrance, which means, there’s literally hundreds of people passing by every minute. But (again) whatever… Jesse puts himself in the right position, I take off my flip-flops, walk over to ‘the gate of light’, take a strong stand, lift up my Burka. Jesse checks on his screen. We repeat the same action several times till we feel like we are running out of luck. We walk out. We sit ourselves down in the shade on a bench right outside the mosque, scroll through them... I look up from the screen and glance at Jesse’s face, it was like a mirrored expression. We stand up to leave the shade and feel the sun caressing our smiling faces.
As soon as we exit the gate, I pull off my Hijab to free my hair. We treat ourselves with some Turkish Delights and a pomegranate juice. What a rush!
THE REST OF THE TRIP These campaigns are challenging in every way. But Jesse and I like to think of ourselves like a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde. On a James Bond mission. Loving every minute of the danger that continually presents itself to us.
Our close friends in Istanbul had sternly warned us about local government religious spies that watch over the communities and report anything that seems anti-religious or just out of the very constrained norm. At one point the police had come to our hotel in Istanbul interrogating the staff about our location just a day after we had left. The hotel texted us asking not to return for ours and their sake. At this point, we again knew, that this was a very real situation and if we would get caught, we would be very much screwed. We wouldn’t be able to put on the same pokerface as we did in Egypt, since we were already on the radar and they knew what we were up to. The chase was on.
At a location, we can't disclose we tried to shoot for three days straight. On the third day they had hired extra security. Literally all the peaks of the hills were covered with armed men. One of the guards followed us for a whole afternoon and stayed within about a meter from us, he didn't even talk, he just looked like a stone cold killer. His face told of a dark background and we could see this guy was extremely dangerous. We were warned to exit the town asap. It was extremely frustrating for us to leave without completing the mission. But we did. There was no other way this time.
We then travelled back through Adiyaman, Cappadocia and then Istanbul and enjoyed the incredible sites that Turkey has to offer. Despite all the usual chases and bribes we paid along the way to do what we do, Turkey is one the most amazing places on Earth, and her food and landscapes are unforgettable, the people (not including the guards and religious fools) are charming too. A massive thank you to those who helped us, you know who you are. And Thank you Turkey for having us.
I honestly never thought I’d ever set foot in a place like Saint-tropez. I’ve been close quite some times but always made a big turn around it, just because in so many ways it goes completely against everything I stand for or believe in. But I figured what if I’d go, and mess around a bit with this bling-bling borough. So I put on my ‘expensive sandals’ and of we were.
Actually, before I go on, I have to admit, the French Riviera is very pretty and photogenic, to blend in properly we rented a very photogenic car too, so now we were really ready to cruise. From Antibes through Cannes, to Saint-Tropez.
A couple hours later and a bit sunburned we arrived. It was exactly what I imagined it would be like. Fancy cars, women wearing make-up while it’s 35°C(how do they even do that??), big big BIG boats and so much bling bling it was almost hurting my eyes. They also write ‘Luxury’ in front of everything , restaurants, hotels, spa’s, ice-creamshops… You name it… As long as it says ‘Luxury’ people are buying it. Or ‘Exclusive’ that one works too!
My friend told me about this coffee place called Senequier, situated right in front of the yachts. He said, it would be so cool if you could do ‘one of your photos’ over there. As you can see, I did make a quick stop for a coffee:) After that coffee we drove back, we would have probably been faster walking to be honest, there’s hughe traffic jams to get in and out of this place. Being in this awesome car, it didn’t really bother us though. Completely exhausted we made it to Cannes, took some snaps there and continued the drive back to Antibes.
The very next day we woke up very early because Werner said the yacht of Abromovich was laying just 10 minutes from where we were located. We figured there wouldn’t be anyone up yet at 6 in the morning so the plan was to jump on the back of the boat, take a super fast shower and dive off again. As we were getting closer to the ‘Eclipse’ we saw a security guy marching back and foreworth. Werner took a photo to see if he looked dangerous or not, as we zoomed in we saw he was carrying a gun, so we decided to skip that one and jump on the boat next door, ‘Le Grand Bleu’.
I have to admit, I had loads of fun. Enjoyed every minute of this weekend. Will I ever go again? Probably not :)
In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
'Neath the halo of a street lamp I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence
And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
No one dared Disturb the sound of silence
Imagine. Drifting on the surface of the big blue. Waiting. Energy of the deep, Coming closer. In sight. Now. ‘If only my eyes weren’t salty. And there were no white peaky waves.’ For a moment I wished for smoothness and glassiness. But this is it. It is now. It is rough. I’m in awe. The Ocean enters my mouth. I cough. I look over and watch my friend, I ask him ‘What do we do’? He replies ‘Just be you and enjoy’. I dive. He dives too. I use my sense of sight for a second, But then just let their energy guide me, wherever they want me to go. Close but not too close. In respect of their personal space, I reach for their energy. I rise back to the air. I’m overwhelmed. I breath deep and duck down one last time, To see their shadow disappear in the unknown. Thank you mother, Thank you mother nature.
Photography by Christian Vizl Taken in Dominica on an enlightening 4day boat trip
"A mutual friend introduced me to Marisa Papen. After meeting and talking to her, I knew she was the one to take this task of skateboarding through the streets of New York! Marisa was practicing barefoot on the board, and she was killing it! As I was watching her, I realized something was missing. She needed high heels! I asked if she could skate in heels and she replied: “not sure, do you have a pair…” I did, and that’s what made everything more than just images of a chick on a skateboard, now she’s a woman in control!"
"The next day we set out to create some exciting art. Our first stop was in the meatpacking district, next to a construction site. She proceeded to take off her clothes and started skating, and even the construction workers were so shocked watching this beautiful woman skating down the street, they didn’t even say one word!"
"With one down and many more locations to visit, our next stop was the Flatiron Building, then 33rd Street, just around the corner from Macy’s, Time Square leaning on an NYPD van, Penn Station, and more. It was a typical crazy day as the streets were packed with New Yorkers going to work and tourists. What was hysterical, were the looks on people’s faces seeing a naked skateboarder shredding through traffic! Yes, all photographs were taken on the streets of New York City and no pigeons were harmed during the filming."
Get your board on, take your shirt off. Collaboration with Spleen Wear, out now!
And I know, you might ask yourself, why the f* would Marisa make some T-shirts, she doesn't wear anything herself...! If I'm not on the beach or in some other beautiful natural environment, I do leave the house wearing clothes. Unfortunately... Very minimal though... These T-shirts are made with super high-quality material in great conditions. And that's basically why. So with this being said, please always check where your clothing comes from. What material it's made of... Etc. I can assure you, these shirts are 100% Marisa-proof.
'Exclusive collaboration with Marisa Papen. This t-shirt displays a picture of Marisa Papen in a polaroid format on the chest.The tee shirt depicts a societal issue about insignificant endeavors vs the beauty of woman. Spleen tee shirts are 100% organic cotton and all have an oversized fitting. All Spleen item are limited edition and are produced in less than 100 pieces.' https://spleenwear.com/collections/t-shirt/products/t-shirt-marisa-papen-spleen-throphy
'Exclusive collaboration with Marisa Papen. This t-shirt displays a picture of Marisa Papen in an old carwash in the United States. The t-shirt depicts the societal issue about the usage of sex in advertising. Spleen tee shirts are 100% organic cotton and all have an oversized fitting. All spleen items are limited edition and are produced in less than 100 pieces.' https://spleenwear.com/collections/t-shirt/products/t-shirt-marisa-papen-carwash
First of all, ‘don’t judge a book by its title’… This purely implies the shame you, dear reader, (perhaps) will project on me because I have done something so disrespectful, I should burn in hell. I know my mailbox is about to fill up with threats and angriness again - to all the people typing down their furiosity right now, save your energy. I don’t even open them.
After my escapades in Egypt (read here). I knew that I wanted to push the bounderies of religion and politics even further. Breaking down the walls that have been build to keep all our wandering souls on this planet somehow under control. With other words, showing my personal religion in a world where freedom is becoming a very luxurious thing.
That freedom this time was captured by Mathias Lambrecht on a 3-day road trip through Israël. From Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, to the Dead Sea and back. I don’t know if this was coincidence or not, but exactly when we arrived the American embassy opened and on the day we were in Jerusalem, Israël was celebrating their 70 year independence-anniversary. While the rest of Jerusalem was celebrating, I was enjoying the afternoon sun on a rooftop after a morning of running around in the desert - capturing our last frames of the trip.
I’ll probably share some more images of this series later on but for now, the other images of this series can be seen at the Frank Rose Gallery in Knokke, Natiënlaan 52. Which will be open from today till the end of September.
You compare yourself to a flower Feeling the wind Dancing You grow unfolding your petals To the sun Soaking Naked in the rain You compare yourself to a flower Smelling of nature's beauty Unapologetically With each breath Cleansing the air Healing Part of the earth A symbol with hidden depth that goes beyond Immaculate form You compare yourself to a flower A flower The condensation of sun wind and rain Grounded Ever changing composition Earths art constantly becoming something new A flower is a product of passion
Molten lucent lava, burning black darkness. Cherry-red tears slowly rolling down those rocky cheeks. Following the ashen path of fire. Crackly noise of a planet that’s changing shape. Moving together with the shifting crust, Unknowing, in wonder. Tumbling and tumbling… Lavishly. Explosively. Erupt.
And… then randomly, impetuously cool down again. Like nothing ever happened.
Usually when I arrive at a place that is unexplored territory, the first thing I do is go for a walk, look for food, feast my eyes. But after a past few really intense days in Turkey, I didn't feel like leaving my room yet. Here's all the angles from a tiny space in huge a building that's gonna be my bedroom for the next couple of hours.
Good night x
'I added some pictures underneath the initial story from when I finally did go outside :)' 'That goldfish market was one of the most upsetting things I've seen in a while, adults juggling around those plastic bags, looking for their perfect batch. Next week there's gonna be a dog-eating festival in the next town from where I'm staying right now. What the ****???!'