#PlanetPlastic - Marisa Papen

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes and in this case, it’s in the magnificent form of Marisa Papen. And as we know her, she left her cape at home ... 

Marisa has already made her contribution for trying to make the world a better place with her previous project #plasticsushi, where she confronted us with the harsh reality of ocean pollution and the consequences towards animal life.

This time she traveled all the way to Congo together with the legendary German photographer Uwe Ommer, convincing us that the key to salvation is in our very own hands as wildlife there is at the verge of extinction.

What she found over there was incredible nature, like the dream she had as a kid, but also the lack of animals and disappearing wildlife, a topic that she wants to highlight with her new calendar #planetplastic, as well as for the purpose of supporting organizations such as Forgotten Parks that are helping to protect the remaining animals, introduce new wildlife again and teach local children about animal rights.



“When I was a little kid I remember being glued to the screen when watching wildlife documentaries on National Geographic. I’d even have dreams at night about wildlife and wild places. I remember one dream very fondly. I was running barefoot in the middle of a huge stretch of zebras while the big orange ball of fire was setting behind majestic curly trees. It was marvelous – the most real thing I had ever seen, even though if it was nothing more than a dream. When I woke up, I knew that one day, I’d be running there for real, on African soil, through a sun-covered Savannah, galloping with those zebras. And then this October, 20 years after that dream I found myself In Central Africa, Congo, the land of Gold and Blood. On a mission to realize my vision.”



“Although a few days before my actual arrival, Olivier, our host told us, there would only be a very small chance to spot some animals in the real wilderness. There was a game reserve – not a zoo, the animals are actually wild and have a lot of space  pretty close to where we were staying he said, but I still wanted the real deal. He thought I was aware of the statistics. And I was… but I had no idea the situation was this bad. Unfortunately, he was indeed more than right … 10 days of driving through incredible nature …Encounter with animals: One baboon.”



They had to take their creativity up a notch in order to pose with animals that were not there, so together with visual artist Sammy Slabbinck, they photographed a miniature animal that later on got enlarged to a life-size format and put into the setting of Marisa posing. In between the magic of the African world and the parts of a cruel reality the calendar was born, full of excellent nudes in the middle of wild steppe and roaring waterfalls.


When did you start modeling and why? How did it develop into nude photography?

I was always very fascinated by art and photography but I never really imagined myself inside the frame.
It came naturally into my life and then kind of realized it could be something I’d wanna do more. I ditched my clothes on the first shoot I’d ever done I think, it felt so natural and freeing that taking images with clothes on, just never was that appealing to me anymore.


How have you changed since you started? Have you learned new things about yourself in a way?

There’s no way to know what kind of person I would have grown into if I didn’t decide to walk the modeling (I’m not too fond of this word actually) path. But for sure, it changed me. Most of the days are not really life changing but then just one day or just one happening or situation can change your whole vision.
I love that. I love to see the world from a different angle and say ‘aaah, why didn’t I see this before’ …? I used to try to take shortcuts in life all the time, but that just doesn’t work. I eased down a little and let life come to me instead of the other way around.



Tell us something more about this project. How did you come up with the idea? 

Because of traveling honestly. More and more I found myself in these utopian places, totally secluded from civilization but with marks of destroying humanity everywhere … I wanted to spread this message and figured that I could implement this with my modeling. That’s when Plastic Sushi emerged.


Making awareness through your calendar is just awesome. It’s a problem that can’t be solved instantly but what small steps do you recommend to change this problem in the right direction?

Just being more cautious and thoughtful with your everyday choices is a big start.


The numbers of wildlife in Africa is decreasing immensely. What’s been considered the biggest reason for this?

In general, habitat loss, deforestation, climate change, hunting ... In Congo, poaching is the major reason. Countries like Tanzania and South-Africa are a step ahead of protecting wildlife mainly because there’s a lot of tourism - safari’s - which means money. It’s sad to realize that this is what it takes not to slaughter animals …


You’re having an exhibition in Antwerp very soon. Is this your first time and is it something you’d like to do more often?

It is. I’m very excited about it. So, yes I could def see myself doing more exhibitions in the future but let’s see how this one goes.



Your calendar is a beautiful way of making art and spreading a message at the same time. Do you think it influences other people considerably?

I can only hope so. That’s the whole goal of the project … Even if it would only change 10 peoples minds … It’s a start. Those 10 people can maybe influence 10 people in their circles and so the story continues.


Do you have similar projects in mind for the future or any other projects?

In general, I only want to create images with a certain message now. I have plenty of inspiration and ideas, more is coming!



Photographer: Uwe Ommer | Website | Instagram
Model: Marisa Papen | Website
Organisation: Forgotten Parks | Website | Facebook | Twitter

Get your calendar here.