Maria Sturm
Born in 1985 in Ploiesti, Romania Maria has lived in Germany since 1991 and received her diploma in Photography & Media from University of Applied Sciences Bielefeld in 2012. Maria has won several prizes including the New York Photo Award 2012 and the DOCfield Dummy Award Barcelona 2015 for the work “Be Good”. After meeting at a residency in 2012, Cemre Yeşil and Maria began a collaboration leading to “For Birds’ Sake” (2014), about the Birdmen of Istanbul. The work was featured in Colors Magazine, The Guardian, British Journal of Photography, & ZEITmagazin among others, was widely exhibited internationally, was a finalist at PHE OjodePez Award for Human Values 2015, Renaissance Photography Prize 2017, was nominated for Lead Awards 2016 and Henri- Nannen-Preis 2016 and was shortlisted at Arles Author Book Award 2016 and Prix Levallois 2017. While working on personal projects and commissions Maria also worked as a freelance producer for Vice Germany. She just graduated with an MFA in Photography from Rhode Island School of Design, receiving a Fulbright and a DAAD scholarship. Her thesis “You don’t look Native to me” received a 2016 GS grant, the SPE Student Award for Innovations in Imaging 2017, a nomination as best photo series for Vonovia Award für Fotografie and was shortlisted for PhotoLondon La Fabrica Book Dummy Award.
You Don’t look Native to me
‘You don‘t look Native to me’ shows excerpts from the lives of young Native Americans from around Pembroke, Robeson County, North Carolina, where 89% of the city’s population identifies as Native American. The town is the tribal seat of the Lumbee Indian Tribe of North Carolina, the largest state-recognized Native American tribe east of the Mississippi River, which means they are federally unrecognized and therefore have no reservation nor any monetary benefits. Unlike many other Native American tribes, the people of Robeson County were never forced to move. For this reason, they formed a very strong bond to place, locally referred to as the swamp. I am tracing their methods of self-representation, transformed through history, questions of identity with which they are confronted on a daily basis, and their reawakening pride in being Native. I am particularly interested in youth, because it is the period in which one begins the conscious and unconscious path to self-definition. The work consists of portraits, along with landscapes and places, interiors, still lives, and situations. The aesthetic framework that is presented offers clues – sometimes subtle, sometimes blatant– for imparting a feeling for their everyday lives. My work engages an unfamiliar mix of concepts: a Native American tribe whose members are ignored by the outside world, who do not wear their otherness on their physique, but who are firm in their identity. I am focusing on an unusual and somewhat paradoxical kind of otherness, one which is not immediately apparent, even though they define themselves in this way. Through photography, video and interviews, I am investigating what happens when social and institutional structures break down and people are forced to rely on themselves for their own resources. This raises questions to the viewer regarding one’s own identity and membership to the unspecified mainstream. This work was started in 2011.

The Addis Foto Fest (AFF) was established in 2010 by award-winning photographer and cultural entrepreneur, Aida Muluneh. The festival is organized by Desta for Africa Creative Consulting PLC. AFF is a biennial international photography festival held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It has previously featured exhibitions, portfolio reviews, conferences, projections and film screenings in many different renowned venues. It is also the first and only international photography festival in East Africa.