Based in Dusseldorf, Germany, Helene Vienna started taking self-portraits in 2013 and has since shifted to collaborating with others. In the beginning of 2017, she started to travel to those, who’s been inspiring her, and to either take portraits of them or let them take hers. The connections Helene makes are the most important part of her work, ‘as they set the tone of a session. How much a person opens up depends on the first few moments you have together. And that is exciting.’
How did the idea for the series come about?
When Vena and I spontaneously got together, we had never met and only talked shortly before. She seemed to have such an interesting character from the few lines we had exchanged online, and to then see her in person felt very surreal. It was like we already knew each other, connecting on a deep level of trust right off the bat. We hadn’t planned on taking photos that day, but for some reason I felt a force within me to capture those new, unknown moments between us. I was curious.
Can we photograph the female body in a more powerful way?
Every woman, every body is so different. We live in a time when empowering the female (body) is of high priority. I’ve always tried not to differentiate between genders, because I never understood the human tendency for the constant need of comparison. But let’s be honest, hiding from this topic doesn’t help. Before I post something on Instagram, or even if I decide to show something to an acquaintance for example, I question if my photos are ‘appropriate’ to show. That’s not healthy. In order to not censor and therefore empower a body – a somebody – is by being very open and confident about it. Normalize what we are taught to be scared of.
“By opening up to one another, I was able to capture the beauty of the unknown as well as hers.“
How would you define beauty?
Beauty, to me, is in the moments I expect least, the ones that take my breath away and bring tears to my eyes. Especially during the set with Vena, I felt continuous goose bumps. Although we didn’t know each other nor was any part of the shoot planned, collaborating came completely natural to both of us. By opening up to one another, I was able to capture the beauty of the unknown as well as hers. In other words: Beauty is something you don’t know until you face it.
What inspires you and what makes you happy?
To be honest with you, I enjoy the walks with my dog. The weather and my surroundings are never the same; I get to see something new every time. It is the same with people. We are never feeling just one way, so when we encounter each other, there is always a new discovery.
Film or digital?
It doesn’t matter, as long as one is able to capture the right moment at the right time. For me personally, I work with film, as I love the whole process (except for being broke … ).
Lastly, what’s next for you?
Photography started out as a private passion for me, but over the last year I found, that I am quite good at connecting with people and creating intimacy on set. This is why I just recently opened my business as a full-time photographer and offer commissioned work with a focus on couple and family portraits. As for my personal projects, I want to bring them out of the screen and onto paper. Onto walls. Having my first exhibition sometime this year would be more than amazing.