Success for international fashion photographer Maia Cazzani
International graduate Maia was born in Italy and traveled to England to begin her studies at Arts University Plymouth in 2019, building on her previous experience training at Istituto Italiano Fotografia in Milano.
Her stunning photography was chosen to represent the talent at Arts University Plymouth as part of our national recruitment campaign. Maia's work has been printed at large scale for a banner on our main campus at Tavistock Place, where it will be seen for months to come by visitors to the city and our campus.
We caught up with Maia to find out what drew her to Arts University Plymouth, what she focuses on in her work, and what’s next for the concept-driven fashion photographer.
What have you been up to since graduating?
I have taken the summer to focus on my future. Finishing university allows you to take a break and let everything you’ve learned sink in. In the meantime, I’ve kept my photography going by taking on events near me, but the plan is to move to London and build my career towards the world of fashion photography, as that’s my passion. I’m excited for what the future holds.
What can you tell us about your experience studying at Arts University Plymouth?
I never thought that these three years would change me so much. I started out not really knowing what exposure was, let alone working in a studio or shooting with models, but all the self-directed study time we had really encouraged me to research and experiment, getting to the point I am now, where studio work and directing models is what I feel most comfortable doing.
The module that made something in me click was ‘Research and Experimentation’, where failing was expected of us, as a way to learn and progress. Only by researching and trying out different things did I find my own style. I guess I can say that studying at AUP gave me the opportunity to grow both creatively and personally in a way I wouldn’t have done anywhere else.
What made you choose to travel to Arts University Plymouth?
I am originally from Italy (half English and half Italian) and studying abroad was something I really wanted to experience. I had my interviews all during the same period, and I remember AUP being full of young bubbly students, in what looked like a very positive and supportive environment, and that immediately caught my attention. The lecturers made it clear how much they really cared about the journey of the individual student, which was what swayed my decision.
Were there any fun projects or live briefs that you got involved with whilst studying here?
Ever since the first year we’ve had workshop sessions during the week, either working in groups within our cohort or having visiting lecturers or industry professionals come in and set us a task. They were always fun because it was an opportunity to collaborate rather than do our own individual shoot. It also meant that everyone in the group would bring their own ideas along which we bounced off each other, resulting in something different every time.
What was the most memorable moment of your degree?
There are lots of moments that were memorable, for many different reasons, but I would say that our Degree Show opening night was probably the moment I will always remember.
Seeing everyone’s work come together after three very intense years was such a good feeling and to finally celebrate what we had achieved, in such a positive environment like our show, was pretty special.
Tell us about your process of working. Are you camera first or do you plan your shoots?
Throughout my course, I’ve been used to following the process suggested by the lecturers, so research, plan, and then shoot. However, ideas come to me instinctively a lot of the time. I love looking at other photographers’ work and gaining inspiration from old and current trends. I’m not the type to sit down and spend a whole day planning a shoot!
What equipment do you shoot with? And are you team Nikon or team Canon?
I grew up team Canon, because of my dad’s love for it, however, I experimented with Nikon – amongst others – during my studies and I must admit, the D850 had me doubting. I still am Canon at heart though…
What kind of themes do you focus on in your work?
It’s difficult for me to pinpoint specific themes. In my final module feedback, my lecturers said my work has a real female gaze to it, but this is not necessarily something that I consciously incorporate. I like big themes such as inclusivity, diversity, and gender equality; these are all things I value and support and which I am naturally drawn to.
I guess I focus more on the visual aesthetic of my photography: the light, the colours, the shapes… I try to create things that I feel good looking at, that give me a sense of completion, that make me go “yes!”.
What was the most important lesson that you learned at Arts University Plymouth?
Do not limit yourself. If you start the course wanting to be a food photographer, don’t let that stop you from opening your mind to other possibilities. I hated working in the studio at first and thought I’d end up being a location fashion photographer, but I let myself explore different fields and found a real passion for studio photography, lighting, cinematography, and all sorts of things I never even contemplated at first. Be open to change!
Some of Maia's striking fashion portraits. A mix of black and white, and colour photography of the female form.
How did you find the collaborative aspects to study at Arts University Plymouth?
The majority of my third-year shoots were collaborative projects, especially with the fashion students (and alumni), who lent me their designs and sometimes even modelled for the shoots. Collaborating with other students helped me overcome a lot of my shyness, so I would definitely recommend making the most of it.
In interior design, you will find stylists and set designers; in fashion, you’ll find models and fashion designers; dotted around the university are hairstylists, make-up artists, actors, art directors, and the list goes on. AUPi is full of collaborative opportunities, you just need to be good at finding the right ones.
The piece of work that was selected for the banner on the front of the building was a collaborative effort - can you tell us which other students or alumni you worked with and what they contributed?
This particular shot is the perfect example of AUP collaboration! Everyone from the model, to the designer, to the jeweller are students or alumni.
Ruby Forbes, the model, is a third-year BA (Hons) Illustration student. Cerys Mullaly is the fashion designer, who graduated in 2020 and was kind enough to send over her designs for us to use. Finally the jeweller, Donna Burns, is a graduate as well, who really helped me build that photographer-client confidence.
Who would be your dream brief (or shoot)?!
Difficult to say because there are so many incredible designers out there, Harris Reed being one of my favourites. Photographing Reed’s collections is at the top of the list as a dream shoot! Taking part in one of Gucci’s editorial campaigns would be amazing. Gucci as a “dream client” is probably a cliché amongst fashion photography students, but I think being in the same space as all those incredible models and creatives, would be a really enriching experience.
What advice would you give to any aspiring photographers considering a degree at Arts University Plymouth?
I would say come into this experience with an open mind and allow yourself to be whomever it is you feel like being in that moment, even if it’s not what you planned; and remember, just because you’re on the same path as someone else doesn’t mean you have to follow them. Be open to change and create your own journey.