Joanna & Mike
WORDs : AM
PHOTOGRAPHY: Joanna Maclennan
Recently we had the pleasure of breaking bread with the very talented artists Joanna Maclennan & Mike Sajnoski and their adorable daughter Poppy. As they are blessed with a beautiful life in the South of France, they were not quite passing through our sleepy town on the west coast of Sweden, but luckily a work assignment brought them to Denmark, so we worked our charm and convinced them that the two hour train journey from Copenhagen would be well worth the effort.
Joanna hails from a long line of artistic individuals who have certainly shaped and influenced her career as an extremely talented photographer "I was interested in photography from an early age, my grandfather bought me my first real camera when I was fifteen and although I dabbled in it when I was younger I didn’t think I could make a living out of it professionally". Having spent her early twenties travelling extensively, learning about other cultures and expanding her creative mind, her stepfather told her that “one should experience the life in a big city at least once” so she moved to London, which at that stage in her life did not appeal to her, however we suspect that it was perhaps the constraints of a regular job that did not suit the bohemian Joanna. Fast approaching thirty she left London and moved back to the West Country in order to help a friend in need, she also took the time to try and see if she could find a way of becoming a photographer, which through a series of serendipitous events and encounters just happened to work - funny how life works out that way, you meet someone quite by chance and your life spirals into another direction - a fortuitous meeting with another photographer started her on a journey of becoming an interiors photographer, one who now works for the likes of The World of Interiors, House & Garden UK, The Telegraph magazine, Elle Decoration Country, NY Times, Marie Claire and MILK decoration. Having begun to establish herself and her reputation she moved to France and frankly, she’s never looked back.
Mike, who was born in Normandy, gets his exotic looks from his Macedonian father and his French mother. His family were manual workers, his father and grandfather were both carpenters, creating houses, furniture and objects - this capacity to make things with your hands left a lasting impression. Growing up in the countryside as an only child, he learnt very early on in life to keep himself busy, isolated from other people he would spend his time drawing and building things with his father’s tools. Later as a young man he went to the Fine Arts school in Rouen, an experience that he describes as invaluable, the chance to meet other artists with different approaches and techniques than his own. It was there he understood that anything can be artistic, there are no limitations beyond those we set upon ourselves. After the birth of his eldest child some twenty years ago, the call to return to the countryside grew louder - the call to return to his roots - so he chose a small village in the South of France where the climate is better, the light is indescribably different, the countryside is picture perfect and the village life satisfying to his needs, the ability to live down a small street where you know the neighbours and see the children play was of paramount importance.
Their collective story began when they met through a mutual friend of theirs over a coffee in Saint Remy de Provence, at a difficult moment in their lives, somehow they felt simply ready for each other. A love and appreciation of each other, their work and their interests began to grow, with Mike's grounding and calming energy complimenting and contrasting to Joanna's more energetic and vibrant self. With the relationship flourishing, naturally their home began to grow, first in St Remy and now they are settled into life “at the mas” - a typical farmhouse for the area, a home where they are able to have chickens and live as close to nature as possible, in their own poetically different universe “un environnement poétique et décalé” down a dirt track surrounded by organic pear and apple orchards, their little piece of heaven. It is a complementary mix of one another, flea market finds, a rusty piece of corrugated metal used as a headboard in the master bedroom, spontaneous and different, spiced with their own individuality. Look closely and you will see Mike's own 3D collages inspired by 18th and 19th century drawings based around anatomy, botany and animals, visually allegorical images placed under old mortuary globes or curved glass under Napoleon III frames, resulting in modern day relics. It is these and many more aspects of their home which lends itself perfectly as subject matter to Joanna's still life “nature morte” photographs, using her medium format Hasselblad she creates her “les objets qui parlent, qui portent un histoire”. Making their home - like her photographs - atmospheric, with shadows and patina, a reflection of their collective individuality. Their home being the perfect “Cabinet de Curiosité” scattered throughout with their own pieces.
As a couple and as artists they are driven yet grounded, complementary yet individual, keen to break away from their comfort zones and push boundaries, supportive of each other, dreamers yet achievers, curious, like a sponge “je suis très curieux et comme une éponge” sensitive to the moment, the materials, the seasons and desires, with a love of recuperating pieces, creating interiors, accumulating objects, with the collective idea of creating an environment poetic and different, in which to live and raise their family, in a part of the world that naturally draws artists and creative people with its amazing light, scenery and lovely villages. Weekends are spent rummaging, visiting wonderful local food markets and buying seasonal food that has been grown in the region - a friend has tomatoes and strawberries which are to die for - great cheese makers, bread, olive oil and of course wine. A diverse culture reflected in the diverse people that live in this region, something which suits Joanna and Mike just perfectly.