Enya Mommsen

Growing up, were you always creative?
My parents were both working in creative fields, and so I think naturally my brother and I grew up understanding self-expression as priority without a doubt.

Did you end up pursuing art in college?
I actually haven’t gone to college. I’m going to be 21 this November and I’m still deciding if college is something I want to do in the next few years. Living in the city, I’ve discovered and learned so much already.

Have you always lived in New York?
I moved here two years ago. I actually grew up in Pennsylvania and the Dominican Republic. After high school, I lived in Berlin with my dad for a year and finally ended up in New York.

How have you been keeping yourself busy in New York?
The first year was pretty much focused on getting my feet on the ground. I needed a way to support myself by assisting photography jobs, modeling, and doing a few restaurant jobs. Since then, I’ve been working upwards because I have time to focus on modeling and my own photography.

What is the biggest conception about models?
Maybe that there are so many misconceptions. You typically hear models say that people think they’re all dumb and unintelligent. I’ve never had that experience where upon entering a room without speaking, people judge and make assumptions. So far in New York, the people I’ve worked with seem to have a curiosity towards the person in front of them.

You’ve posed topless before. What are your thoughts on nudity and modeling?
Yes, there have been very few times where I’ve done it, and even so, hesitantly. I think that it’s really important that before anyone starts that sort of career, be it modeling or acting, they understand from the start what image they want to establish and what character or role they want to play. I’ve made sure that if I do any nudity, it’s only with close friends or people I know.

What photographers have you enjoyed with?
Most of my assisting work is in studio, whether it’s commercial or fashion and I’ve learned a lot professionally. However, I did go on a few photojournalist assignments with a friend of mine, and these were my favorite times. I’ve been lucky enough to see storytelling from totally different approaches.

What sort of photojournalism prompts were you given?
My friend and I shot a few big events. There were also a bit more random ones. For example: some guys broke into a deli in Queens, through the roof to steal lottery tickets, so we talked to the deli owners and photographed the location’s aftermath.

Do you remember your first camera?
Yes! When I started considering photography, I got an internship that required me to run a photo-blog and upload it daily. They gave me a Sony point-and-shoot. I didn’t end up keeping the internship but I kept the camera.  I got my first full frame camera, a Canon 5D, recently, but I think it is very big and the loud shutter can be obnoxious. It’s great for studio work but when it comes to my personal work, I prefer to be outside and around people. I like to hide the fact that the camera is there.

I really like your black and white images that have a circular border. Can you tell me about these photos?
It’s a very straightforward story. My boyfriend and I went on a trip to Oregon. We were driving in his car and I found a pair of binoculars in the glove compartment. We were stuck in aimless traffic, and so I put my binoculars to my iPhone and started shooting.

Who are the subjects in your photographs?
Strange looking people. I’ve noticed lately, when I see someone with a characteristic that bothers me, if I photograph them and point it out, it’s like getting rid of that characteristic. It’s like when you talk about a problem, confront it, and feel better afterwards.

You’ve taken photos of subway riders (1, 2). What do you love about shooting underground?
I think, like most people that shoot street photography, it’s an easy platform. You’re sitting across someone and there’s no way out; it’s like you’re stuck in this box for a certain amount of time. You know you’ll never see that person again so why not go for it? It’s also a time when you’re underground and there’s no cell phone service, so people can’t hide behind their phones scrolling through Instagram. The subway is just a really interesting place to photograph people in New York.

Who are your favorite photographers?
To be honest, I don’t really have point of references. I haven’t looked at a full body of work work in months. I am more inspired by narratives and articles, or music that put me in a certain mindset, I see it like putting on sunglasses and looking at the world with a different filter.

Speaking of narratives, what books do you enjoy?
I actually pick up a book, read a few chapters, and move on. I blame this habit on Instagram because we’ve all gotten used hopping around. If you get bored with one photo, there is always something else to hold your attention.

What book do you hope to read in its entirety?
I recently picked up One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Are you naturally blonde?
Yes and no. I was blonde when I was born but as I get older, my hair is getting darker. I don’t even know what my natural hair color is anymore.

Would you ever cut your hair?
Sure, why not.

What are your favorite locations in New York?
There are still many places in New York that I haven’t gotten to see. Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time in Greenpoint.

Do you have a favorite museum?
I don’t go often, but if I do, I pay less attention to the work and more attention to the people inside. I treat museums like a playground.

What is your favorite restaurant in New York?
I work at Navy in Soho and I think it’s delicious. I really dig the collaboration between the chef & owners.

Where can we find the best pair of jeans?
I would get a vintage pair and get them altered. A pair that fits you perfectly is always better than trying to fit into someone else’s.

How do you define beauty?
That’s hard because my definition changes every day depending on my mood.

What about right now? How does this rainy weather affect your thoughts towards beauty?
I think that on days like this, it’s really nice because the sky is flat and it feels like there’s a dome over the city. Somehow, this weather pushes people to go inward. I think it’s always interesting and beautiful when people zone out and are daydreaming.

Where do you hope to travel next?
I think it’s time I go to Asia.

And lastly, I’m so curious what your name, Enya, means.
Little fire.


For more of Enya’s work, check out her website. Images 1-7 by Enya; Image 8 is Enya photographed by her boyfriend; Image 9 is Enya photographed by Mel Tjoeng.