Mia Meets… The Haven project

Interview by Mia Kingsley

For this weeks ‘Mia Meets…’ I am interviewing my first ever duo! Styling student Ana Maria Williams and photographer Louisa Rogers are the two lovely ladies behind recently formed ‘The Haven Project’. A project that explores all the wonderful women aged 14 – 25 in their natural habitat/ haven. The girls search for creatives and approach them with the concept, to then continue to photograph the habitant in her bedroom, house or in Francesca Allen’s case a boat! The results are really beautiful, full of intimacy and offer a very pure look into someones own personal space, their haven. I chat to the creators about their own ‘Havens’, the plan behind their new project and their wishes for the future. Also taxidermy, John waters & pink 😉 meet the ‘The Haven Project’…

So tell us who you first met…

Ana Maria: We met when she complimented me on my bag on the first day of University. Louisa doesn’t remember it though.

Louisa: And apparently I was wearing a really cool tank top… but I don’t remember that either.

How did you girls think of ‘The Haven Project’?

AM: It just seemed like a simple idea that no one else had really done. It kind of came at a time when we were both frustrated with our degrees and needed an outlet where we could create work on our own terms.

L: Ana-Maria just told me about it one day in a very self-effacing way – I think she thought I would dismiss it! But I was actually very enthusiastic and basically wouldn’t stop pestering her until we agreed to do things properly. Especially once I had googled it and saw that no one had done something very similar to it!

The project is fairly new, tell us what style you want the project to develop and be recognised for?

AM: We want it to be recognised as a celebration of girl culture. They’re portraits of creative people that we find inspiring and want to find out about, and hopefully people who see the work will feel that way too. You could say that the whole idea is rooted in feminism and so we want to celebrate women and show that we might like My Little Pony but we’re also intelligent and have opinions about things.

L: I’m quite keen to get the project in print as well as the website, we sort of want to go to zine-fests and see what happens! I’d like it to be recognised as almost a photo-essay. We’re photographing girls and their bedrooms yes, but I think ‘the bedroom’ is trivialised as a concept when it can be so indicative of someone’s personality and aesthetic. It’s a visual shortcut to discovering what somebody is all about, which I think is a really fascinating area to explore.

What is it about a girl that you find intriguing, enough for her to be haven project candidate?

AM:  There is no one kind of person we’re looking for, just someone who’s creative in any way and has an exciting space for us to photograph. So far we’ve had artists, photographers and designers but there’s no reason why we couldn’t feature a mathematician or a scientist.

L: I think for the moment we’re also sticking to a certain girly or grungy style purely to keep the website consistent – we’ll probably be keen to expand later on but as in all photography projects we need a really distinctive look to first grab people’s attention. We like girls who have a strong sense of self: girls who don’t pander to trends but those who set them. Creative people tend to have really quirky living spaces, so they’re ideal! 

Your age group is between 14 and 25, what is about this age group that you find appealing?

AM: The age bracket we’re focusing on is the most formative time in a person’s life, and I think it’s interesting to see how people express themselves during this time. The adolescent bedroom is a temporary and ever-changing thing, as are the adolescents who inhabit them, and I think it’s a fun way to capture part of who that person is by looking at all the things they surround themselves with. At those ages you’re almost like a heightened version of yourself and when you grow up that shifts slightly.

L: Like Ana-Maria says during this time people tend to be developing their taste and exploring different fashions so this often makes for a visually surprising mix of style and cultural references in their bedrooms.

When you meet people do you imagine what their ‘Haven’ could be? Have you ever been surprised to find something completely different to your expectations?

L: Well we’ve definitely found that the havens reflect the people – obviously we’ll never be able to guess what something is going to look like but we’ll get a pretty good idea from checking out people’s instagrams! As we’re starting out, we’re shooting a lot of girls whose blogs we were already aware of which means we have a little idea of what their spaces will look like. We haven’t been surprised as of yet – but bring it on!

AM: I agree. So far people’s aesthetics have been fairly evident beforehand, so their bedrooms have generally matched their personal style. But I look forward to the day when we enter someone’s room and it’s totally not what we expected. 

What are your bedrooms / ‘Havens’ like?

AM: My bedroom back home has shelves full of junk, like toys that I got from vending machines when I was little. If I’m in a charity shop and I see a flocked deer then I have to have it and things like that usually end up decorating any open space on a surface. It’s kind of an amalgamation of all the rubbish I’ve collected over the years since I was a child, so obviously there’s a Barbie sports car in there. Other than that there’s a lot of books and a lot of pink.

L: Oh dear, well I sell vintage clothes on the side so that takes up quite a lot of room. I have an amazing rainbow coloured paisley duvet from Zara Home that’s pretty much the centre-piece. Apart from that there are pictures on every available surface, taxidermy and books books books! And I have a big Hieronymous Bosch triptych above my bed which some people think is a little bit morbid but I know I will never get bored of looking at it!

Do you think someone’s habitat will always reflect the habitant?

AM: That was my expectation at first, that who a person is would be reflected in their bedroom. And so far it has, but I’m waiting to be surprised. I think in a way it always has to, as a bedroom is so personal it has to have elements of that person in there somewhere.

L: I think that people who have the means to reflect some aspects of their personality will do so, whether that is through considered decoration or just bits and bobs lying around that point to their hobbies or passions.

Whats the coolest ‘Haven’ you have come across so far?

AM: Well we shot Francesca Allen who lives on a little canal boat, so that was different. I’d never been on one before and by the time we left I wanted to live in one too.

L: I agree! It was just such a different experience – it was great!

Do you ever get bedroom envy? 

AM: Yes! Totally. I find it really inspiring to look at how people have decorated theirs and it makes me feel like I need to do mine all over again. Because I live in it I think it’s boring, but I’m sure everyone else probably feels the same.

L: I do, I do. It would be difficult not to! But I think I suffer more from wardrobe envy…

 Why only women and not men? 

AM: We were discussing this the other day, and we both said we thought boys didn’t really decorate their rooms in such an interesting way. Like they just have a Manchester United duvet cover or something. But that’s probably not true for all boys, so I think we’d look into boys bedrooms too, if they were exciting to us.

L: I think it would be difficult for two girls to approach a boy and ask to photograph his bedroom without him thinking we were up to something haha! But yes we are open to boys as well, but we like to keep the aesthetic more or less in line with what we’re going for now, which is quite unashamedly girly…

Do you think us girls bedrooms are better than boys?

AM: I don’t want to generalise but I think so. Maybe that’s because I’m a girl though and I want to look at the pretty things other girls have because that’s what I like.

L: I think they’re better for us, because we’re conducting this project through a feminist lens it makes more sense for us to focus on girls. Not that men can’t be feminist of course, but if we shoot girls we have the added benefit of empowering them and showing younger women that they don’t have to fit into this ‘cookie cutter’ image of womanhood to be successful. I think girls are generally more invested in manifesting their interests through decoration as well, though again I feel this might be a bit of a stereotype! 

If you could photograph any one in the world’s bedroom who’s would it be?

AM: Even though he’s not a girl, I would say John Waters. I’ve seen photographs of his house before and it is full of junk, like plastic vegetables and pictures of Kevin Federline. And props from his movies! So I’d love to visit his place.

L: Marina Diamandis of Marina and the Diamonds because I just know she’d have a tonne of crazy things and a fantastic wardrobe stuffed full of Ashish and Meadham Kirchoff.

What’s your ideal haven?

AM: My ideal haven would be gaudy and a little bit bohemian. Lots of pink and leopard print with stacks of books and art propped up against the walls. When I have my own house I want a room just for listening to music and watching films, with shelves of records and DVDs and posters on the walls. And if I can’t have that then I’ll just move into the Madonna Inn.

L: I think my ideal would be somewhere that is a visual overload! Photographs, posters and art on every surface. I am obsessed with taxidermy too, so I think I’d really love to photograph someone with a really exotic victorian taxidermy collection.

Whats next for you girls? Where do you want the project to go in the future?

AM: We’d love to be able to branch out of London and photograph people from all over! We’re both eager to make the project an ongoing series so hopefully we can take it further as it goes on.

L: I just can’t wait to get it in print! But everything in due time…

Thanks so much ladies!! We look forward to all the future ‘Haven Projects’!! If you want to check out more havens or would like to share your own haven check out the links below:

Next week I will be chatting to the amazingly colourful illustrator Annu Kilpeläinen but until then for more ‘Mia Meets…’ or more Mia Kingsley:



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