Mirja Maria Thiel, born in Hamburg, Germany in 1971, studied American, English and German Literature and Linguistics at the Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, Germany. She finished her studies with a Master’s thesis exploring the “Grotesque Worldview and Mythical Consciousness in Selected Works of American Poetress Sylvia Plath”. Thereafter she worked for the literary publishing houses’ editorial departments at Suhrkamp and Schöffling & Co as well as for the image editorial department of the World Wide Fund for Nature, all situated in Frankfurt a. M.
From 2006 until 2010 she lived with her family in the countryside between Appenzell and St. Gallen in Switzerland. In the years defined by motherhood, she wrote a nonfiction book about dressage and bitless riding education framing the ideas of her riding teacher that was published at Georg Olms Press, Hildesheim, Germany in 2007/2010.
The experience of motherhood has intensified her enduring interest in storytelling as a means of rising to challenge, living with change, and empathizing with humanity’s vulnerability. Since 2014 Mirja has been a student in the degree program (B.A.) Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Hannover, Germany. Next to local photojournalism Mirja works primarily on personal long-term documentary projects. She lives with her husband and their three children close to Bremen in Northern Germany.
This image is from the series, “Portrait of an Artist as an Old Man”, finalist at Portraits-Hellerau Photography Award 2018, VGH-Preis 2018, and was awarded Silver in the portfolio-personal category at Tokyo International Photo Awards 2018. This series tells the life of Fritz Dressler (b. 1937), a landscape and architectural photographer who has suffered from Alzheimer’s for several years. Dressler was formerly a Professor of Photography and Moving Images at the University of the Arts in Bremen. Before the onset of his dementia, Dressler resided in the artist village of Worpswede for more than 40 years. He was known for his influential and creative personality. In this work that was done in 2016, Mirja is committed to the emotional reality of the charismatic protagonist: his intensity, vulnerability, and resilience that define the portraits of his soul.