Monday, July 12, 2010
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, creatures and critters, allow me to introduce to you the phenomonal photographic talent that is WALTER HELENA. The creative mind behind these images is neither Walter or Helena, but my dear friend Nadine. Nadine and I met a decade ago when we were students and working in a neighbourhood pub. Since then we've migrated to different corners of the continent and lost touch temporarily, but as the magnetic force of the westcoast would have it, we have both stumbled gracefully home and connected once again - this time via creative endeavours and creme brulee. In fact, our visits are never without the tastiest in food and beverage, and she is some of the most pleasant company I could ever hope to have.
Nadine has recently launched Walter Helena Photography and I am a huge HUGE fan. I needn't write descriptively about the works because the photos speak for themselves. But I will say that part of their success (for me, at least) is in each image's abililty to evoke an emotional response from the viewer. And because I know the photographer personally, I dare say that I can sense her mood just as the shutter snaps.
The landscapes are subdued...soft...kinetic. The florals are textured...still...vibrant. The urban images are strong...honest...confident. All are ephemeral - and it is this quality that gives each photo a kind of melancholic grace.
But this is of course my personal response to these painterly photographs. I invite you to read the following interview with WHP and allow your own response to surface.
KP: Under what circumstances/conditions do you feel most inspired or creative?
WHP: Dawn and dusk. Anytime really where the light is not directly overhead. Storms. After a glass of red or a tumbler of whisky. After I’ve been quiet for many hours/days. Spending time with the women in my life who are confident and slightly forceful and have grand goals and crass humour. Watching my partner work. Performing unfamiliar tasks. Reading. Wind. Walking new neighbourhoods at dinnertime before curtains are drawn.
KP: What type of equipment do you use?
WHP: For many years I used an ancient Minolta (a gift), which served me well, but its capacity couldn’t support file sizes large enough to print as full-scale as I was looking ahead to do. So I invested in a Canon 50D with a 17-85 lens, a computer with a very large screen, and Photoshop CS4. I keep it simple and my only accessories are a polarizing lens and tripod. While I know there are better, the camera is astounding and serves my purposes for the time being. I may grow out of it one day, but until I’ve exhausted every option and resource it offers, I’m pleased to keep it by my side. Or around my neck, as it would be.
KP: Is there a photographer or artist whose work you admire or are influenced by?
WHP: I appreciate and respect anyone who diligently strays from pretty photographs and commits to a focus and sticks with a theme. I hold dear any artist who stands strong with their creations despite lack of audience. I’m drawn to works that use colour in vibrant and different ways. I have always loved stark black and white and desaturated barren landscapes. I like works concerned with industrial scenes -- anything dilapidated. I love antique photographs and tintypes; I spend a lot of time in antiquarian bookstores looking for orphaned photo albums.
A few photographers that presently interest me:
Roy Arden (http://www.royarden.com/defaultee.shtml)
Stan Douglas (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stan_Douglas)
Chris Friel (http://www.chrisfriel.co.uk/)
Li Hui (http://huiuh.com/)
Fred Herzog (http://fredherzog.com/)
Lukasz Wierzbowski (http://sequin-covered-swans.tumblr.com/)
Jeremy Kohm (http://www.jeremykohm.com/)
Noa Emberson (http://www.joystain.com/)
As far as looking towards others for inspiration, I don’t outwardly like the idea. To be honest, I find repetition and duplication distasteful. At some level, I’m sure I’m being influenced by a hundred sources outside myself every minute. But the moment I try (and I have) to replicate a look or a style, the product falls flat and it has no meaning to me. The best photographs I’ve taken have been when I’m in a fluid mood and I am not trying for anything in particular. Those hold meaning to me, because they are deeper than mere thought.
KP: Your favourite photograph (of yours) to date?
WHP: This one:
It’s an older work, but I think its age serves it well because I’ve had so many chances to look at it -- and I always see and feel something different. My hope is that over time, all my pieces will be like people and become complex and find home in me.
KP: Where can we see your art in person?
WHP: Presently I’m only showing in one space, a gallery/bookstore in Vancouver. In the past I have shuffled larger stretched pieces around, showing here and there in my home city. Ultimately they were very positive experiences but two matters hold me back from doing much more showing of my work at this time. The first is the cost: to hang a show is rarely met in financial returns. The second is the isolation: it removes me from the process of knowing the people who respond to my work. For the time being, my work is available for viewing and purchase online. I work within Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/photos/walterhelenaphotography/) and Etsy (http://www.etsy.com/shop/whphotography).
While I’m still a grain of sand online (a platform so big I am daunted and overwhelmed), I can’t justify spending more time on sorting through the good and the junk to find appropriate people and places to publicize. Also, I think your audience can find you, albeit slowly, if you let them discover you. But to force your way into inappropriate spaces seems successful perhaps at the moment, but I wonder how it does for longevity. Most likely, I’m just too stubborn to commit to more time spent behind the computer that does not involve editing my photographs with a glass of Bordeaux at hand.
KP: If you were to offer one piece of photographic advice, what would it be?
WHP: Oh goodness, it would feel contrived to offer any actual advice because I feel strongly that photography, like any creating/crafting/art, should come from the core. We all have demons and hopes to explore and how we go about that is so particular and individual. I dislike guidelines (always have) in most arenas, especially with art. The kind of meaningful creating (the kind that changes you and shows you about yourself and the world) gets lost a little each time you adhere to another’s words of advice. So I suppose I would say just that: remove as much advice from your surroundings as possible. Trust in yourself. Lock yourself in a room, field, parking lot – alone – and go with your gut. Make big mistakes. Allow inappropriate dreaming. And keep on pressing the shutter.
KP: If you were given a plane ticket today to anywhere in the world, where would you go?
WHP: Anywhere quiet. With nature. And my partner. And European bakeries. Maybe a farm in France. Or a room in Montenegro. Anywhere that I can feel unknown and freshly optimistic that I don’t know all. The unfamiliar is good for me and keeps me humble.
KP: What does your perfect day consist of?
WHP: Waking early and inviting the animals into bed. Cuddling. Opening all the curtains as soon as I’m up to let the light in. I love the rituals of morning. Making americano. Walking the dogs. The smells of a day. Sitting by the river. Kicking pebbles at the beach. An outdoor market. Cooking a fine meal with my partner with a bottle between us. Laughter. Taking time to be in public with strangers and notice them. Really notice them.
KP: Chocolate, vanilla or strawberry?
WHP: Chocolate. With mint.
KP: What does the future hold for WHP? Creatively, how would you like to see your work evolve?
WHP: Ultimately, I would like to be able to support myself through collaborations and selling prints. But I have to continue to remind myself to forget this hope completely. When a goal, especially a financial one, is awaiting, it blurs my vision. It makes me rigid and takes away the joy of the process of creating itself.
I also tend towards preferring a path coming organically rather than constructing one. I shy away from plans and contrivances. I carve as I go. It can be more debilitating, but also more awakening. I want to be at the ready to be open to anything.
Thank you, WHP.