Style & Grooming

Photographer Ivar Wigan on His Muse, Zaina Miuccia

Ivar Wigan talks to Willy Ndatila, aka William Cult, about his photography, Jamaica and his relationship with Zaina Miuccia

Ivar Wigan has an interesting life. The Scotland-born, London-raised photographer spends part of the year in Jamaica, where he holds a passport, and the rest of it hopping around the globe with his girlfriend and muse, Nigerian actress Zaina Miuccia, who documents their time together and entertains us all on social media. 

I’m interested in their relationship – this dynamic of artist and muse. Art history is littered with muses. From Camille Claudel, the mistress and muse of Auguste Rodin, who was herself a sculptor, to Elizabeth Siddal or ‘Lizzie’, the muse of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, who was an artist and a poet, and is immortalised in Sir John Everett Millais’ painting Ophelia. Famously tortured artist Amedeo Modigliani had three muses, at different stages of his life, who kept him painting despite his battle with alcohol and drug addiction.

When I discussed the process of photographing Miuccia with Wigan, he highlighted what I had come to understand as the crucial difference between a sitter and a muse: that the muse is an integral part of the artist’s creative process. Wigan explained that the images he and Miuccia create together are the result of a dialogue, an exchange of ideas.

The idea of having a muse in the age of new media, when we are constantly flooded with images, seems almost old-fashioned – but Wigan and Miuccia do it well. It’s interesting to watch their relationship unfold on social media. It makes me think about what it would be like if Rodin, Rossetti or Modigliani and their muses had shared their process on social media.

Ivar Wigan himself is a multi-faceted artist, photographer and filmmaker with a unique voice. The Jamaica he photographs is an insider’s view, away from the tired clichés of beautiful beaches and reggae music. There is a realism and intimacy to his work, while his fashion photography is surreal at times but with no artifice. He is a new voice which needs to be heard.

William Cult: How did you first get into photography?

Ivar Wigan: My cousin was Nan Goldin’s assistant and I went to meet her in Paris. She was addicted to opiates at the time and permanently sedated, but she inspired me to become an artist. I’d never seen such intimate images. It was like the pictures were made by some invisible all-seeing force.

WC: You have lived in some interesting places – what is the most memorable image you have taken?

Ivar Wigan: Jamaica is the most intense place I have lived so far. It’s a land of extremes: I saw beautiful and terrible things living in downtown Kingston where I was shooting pictures for local newspaper called The Gleaner. My project ‘Young Love’ is a collection of the images from that time. Coming home one night I had to stop the car for two figures in the road. There were two girls and one was giving birth. I think they had lain down in the road because they were desperate for a driver to stop and help. We got to the hospital in time and it was a good day, though I didn’t photograph this.

WC: Can you tell me about Zaina and her relationship to your work?

IW: Zaina and I met through a stylist friend, the great Matthew Josephs, and have been together ever since. We make pictures together constantly and have shot stories together for various magazines. She is always self-styled and collaborates on all the creative. We both have strong ideas on how every image should look so sometimes we have to take turns in creating the context for each picture. There is a lot of her naughty personality in all these images. In my other work I like to try and impose my vision but with her it is 50/50.

WC: What about fashion? What excites you about it?

IW: Seeing good advertising is definitely a thrill but it’s so rare to see at the moment. Maybe just one or two things a year are really impressive. Young designers excite me, the way they show the clothes without budgets. Online is so immediate and sometimes that’s where you see the most engaging imagery.

WC: Do you think Instagram is having a positive or negative impact on image-making?

IW: It’s important to have a platform where everyone can express and project themselves. Mostly it’s not interesting but occasionally I find something that feels new. I don’t do any social media stuff, but there are other artists on there who use it as an online gallery too so I like finding those. I find about one person a week to follow. The positive side is it speeds up the spread of ideas and connections, that is good.

WC: You also work as a filmmaker – what is your process like when it comes to moving image?

IW: This is my main thing at the moment, and so far brands have given me full control. I love shooting motion, right now I’m working on a music video, a fashion film and an art project that I shot in February. I have to see through the camera so I prefer shooting everything myself as much as possible and I’ve just learnt to edit too. With motion everything can be reinterpreted in the edit, I love that.

WC: What has shaped your aesthetic?

IW: The intention is always to make something that will last forever. That is always my starting point. I don’t watch fads. I don’t like moodboards of other people’s imagery, when it comes to the pictures, I really like to look at the thing in front of me and try to work out what I see that’s special about it. There’s a lot of myself in my pictures so it has to feel good to align with whatever I’m shooting. I have to really believe in it.