Inside the Icon booth: Meet the Dubai photographer who's about to make you a star

Dubai-based photographer Marta Lamovsek’s Icon Booth turns real people into royalty. Grazia meets the Slovenian snapper creating images sans frontières
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Inside the Icon booth: Meet the Dubai photographer who's about to make you a star

Strong, stoic, and striking, Marta Lamovsek’s subjects form a parade of Afghan warriors and Persian princesses unapologetically cutting though the white noise of #squadgoals and sunsets on our Instagram feeds. “These are the imaginary characters that live in my head,” Marta tells Grazia. “Everyone that sits in my chair inspires a new look.”

To call her Icon Booth images purely a photo series would be missing the point. These portraits make a statement about equality and social mobility. “I love shooting everyday people like royalty to elevate them. What I like to bring out in the subject is their poise, their inner grace, and their power. I started photographing Pakistani workers in Satwa in 2016. When I asked one to hold a flower, it clicked," she recalls. “I thought, ‘This is my subject.’”

And to call Marta a photographer would be to woefully underestimate her. “I’m the stylist, art director, photographer, editor. I’m everything in one!” she points out. And that’s just the beginning. “I’m also a collector,” she explains of the costumes and props sourced from Satwa, Bur Dubai, Global Village, and her travels around the Middle East. “I’m obsessed with textures and materials, and I have fabrics that I make into gowns and capes. I’m constantly reinventing the imagery and art direction. Everyone that sits in my chair inspires a new look. It’s mentally and physically exhausting, but the rewards are amazing.”

Language barriers aside, according to Marta the trickiest subjects to capture are those with the most clearly defined sense of their own self-image. “I have lots of people who are camera-shy, and have never been photographed by a professional,” she reveals. “Sometimes, people are very self-aware and used to being photographed, and have their own poses. That happens a lot. I tell them, ‘Forget everything you know. My camera doesn’t click when someone is posing!’ I want the essence of the person not their best side. Everyone is a blank canvas. My role is to bring out their inner warrior.”

So far, the Icon Booth has popped up at Sikka Art Fair, Market OTB, Louvre Abu Dhabi, and will be making its next appearance in at the Female First Sessions’ International Women’s Day celebrations at the Apple Store at The Dubai Mall on 5 March from 7-9pm, for those wishing to be immortalised by Marta. “I create icons within everyone,” she declares. “Why should we only just celebrate the rich and famous?  I want to put everybody on that level and elevate them even higher.”

Photos: Marta Lamovsek