Photographer Marisa Hampe posts beautiful travel images from around the world on her Instagram, but unlike other popular accounts, her photos are dark and daring rather than the sweet and sunny photos that often crowd our feeds. Also instead of checking off popular locales, the German content creator seeks our remote locations frequently scaling mountains and cliffs to get an unobstructed view from the top. I spoke to Hampe about some of her most memorable photos to date and how she got her start in the business.
How did you get your start in photography?
Marisa Hampe: I found my way into photography through my illustrations. My grandfather was an artist in Berlin and a traveler too. He’d been exploring the African continent before he eventually decided to emigrate to Thailand before the war. In Thailand, he taught Buddhist painting and also restored temples for the king. He’s always been omnipresent in my life and was my guide through the early stages of my artistic development. That’s why I moved to Berlin to study at the University of Arts where he had studied as well. Here’s a sketch from my past in 2011. For me, it’s kind of cool to look at this sketch and see how much value I place in the proportions. At university, I then started to study visual communications (among other things, I took classes in film as well as analog photography), which still influences me today as it gives my work a certain framework. It developed my vision and supported my artistic mind. This, combined with the inspiration I got from working with people I worked with at the time, really helped to develop my own style. My artistic upbringing had a great impact on my focus for harmony in my work and I’m still always trying to present the viewer with a photo in which the different elements of it work together harmoniously.
In 2014 I started to photograph abandoned places in Berlin. Instagram noticed and asked me to do a photo walk for an event. Many photobloggers from all over the world had been invited by Instagram and we were a group of over 200 people. I was allowed to lead one of the walks through a number of abandoned places in Berlin. It was probably that moment when I started to share my passion online and began to interact with like-minded people through social media. The exchange in real life through social media with photo enthusiasts gave me so much input to continue and to develop my interest and the positive feedback encouraged me to document something I have always loved: traveling. Since then travel photography is a constant force in my life, but I’m always open to new, exciting adventures. The most important thing for me is to not stand still and to always try to evolve, both personally and artistically.
When did you find your style/aesthetic? How would you describe your style/aesthetic?
I am not sure I actually have found my style yet. As I said earlier, I am always trying to evolve, I’m always moving… and so is my style. Currently, I would describe my aesthetic as dreamy, mystical and romantic. My style focuses on the relationship between humans and nature. My edits and style are not commercial and look a bit fairytale-like. I love to fantasize about how things could be, or what might happen if the rules of life were different — I like to watch fantasy thrillers, for example. I like it when magical worlds are created and while editing photos I take myself out of our mundane life to try to tell a story. Which sometimes can simply be a way to pass the time. Or it expands my mind and subsequently the world around me.
What are some of the most memorable photos you’ve taken?
I like this photo because there are exactly three things to see. Sand, water, me. The less busy a photo is the more you can see. This photo was taken by and with my friend Jan (@kolkrabenjan) in Madeira. He often sees details that I would have missed and the other way around. Together, we are now a well-orchestrated team and it’s so much fun creating photos together. We help each other expand our mindsets which is very special to me.
I like to think about the time when I met those two young Jamaican cliff jumpers Omar (16) and CJ (19) at an abandoned villa on the coast in Negril. They let me tag along and showed me hidden caves and their cool jumps. They have back problems as the continuous impact on the hard water from high up destroys their backs but they’re adrenalin junkies and can’t stop, as they proudly demonstrated to me.
This shot was taken during the sunset of a spontaneous 24-hour trip to the Harz National Park in Germany. Sometimes the perfect location is just around the corner. I love the framing and light.
Together with my friend Max (@muenchmax) we created a piece of heaven on earth. While exploring a market close to Negril and I met this guy called Mr. Everything. He explained that this is his name because he has everything. Sun, the ocean, his store and a lot of happiness. Mr. Everything also convinced me that the pineapples suit me well so I bought all of them. When I see this photo, I know why I do what I do. To me, there is nothing more fulfilling than immersing myself into new cultures and getting to know people who live differently than myself. In such a fast-paced world, these places help me to leave familiar paths behind me and help me to see things from a new perspective.
I read that the meaning of my name Marisa is “the one who comes from the sea” and that might be true — I really love to discover the underwater world and swimming with all the beings down there. Here, for example, I’m with nurse sharks in the Bahamas.
Taken in Kenya, where I was for an anti-ivory poaching campaign. It was a wonderful morning. We left for a safari before sunrise at 6 am to get a glimpse at some elephants. We were extremely lucky and fortunate to be able to watch a lion attack a zebra, so all the animals gathered together at a spot. That was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
I love it how the mom is standing in the background and looks straight into the camera and is like “everything’s under control.”
Where will you be traveling to this year and why those places?
I’m heading to Morocco for a job and will check out the country on a self-organized road trip after. After that, I’m planning a trip to China, as I’ve always been fascinated by the culture and scenery. I’d like to go on many adventures there. For me, there’s also a personal connection as my mom’s parents are of Chinese descent so I’m curious to find out about my roots. I’d like to see what I can rediscover in myself. These types of experiences make me grateful to do what I do.