Interview: Malena Heldmann
Luca Curci talks with Malena Heldmann during the 6th Edition of LONDON CONTEMPORARY ART FAIR 2022, at THE LINE Contemporary Art Space.
Malena Heldmann is a multidisciplinary designer and art director. Having completed her Bachelor’s in Berlin, Malena went on and dived into various fields of creation and broadened her horizons by working in creative agencies in different surroundings, such as New York and Shanghai. She has recently completed her Master’s in Art Direction at the University of Arts in London. With expertise in conception and creation, Malena works in a multidisciplinary role, from developing design solutions to execution. Driven by her interest in complex human-centred and psychological themes, Malena’s work often challenges the collective understanding of contemporary society and mainstream consciousness.
Luca Curci – How did you get into photography? Do you remember why you took your first professional photo?
Malena Heldmann – My passion for photography sparked in my childhood around the age of 13 when I got my first camera – a small pink Canon digicam. Back then, taking pictures was more equivalent in a way to keeping a diary. I captured every single moment during my holidays, took tons of portraits of my brother, and did several amateur fashion shoots with my close friends after school. Everything was far away from professional, tho. After a couple of years, I took lots of photography courses during my BA in communication design, where I learned about the technical parameters of a camera, experimented with lightning, conducted photoshoots in a professional studio setting, dived into photoshop, and so on. What was only my hobby for years quickly became something more profound. Taking pictures beyond just making cool things developed my love for the medium and pushed me to explore its boundaries.
LC – When you take photos, are you usually inspired by the situation or do you find inspiration in yourself?
MH – I get inspired by so many things! First of all, the place I live definitely has a significant influence on my work. I tend to live in big and booming cities like Berlin, New York, Shanghai, and London. Those cities broaden my perspective and teach me about the contemporary world. Being out and about, just meeting with different people, attending art fairs, and so on, enhances the power of my imagination. On the other side, I am a nature lover. The countryside helps me to connect on a deeper level with myself, allowing me to find inspiration from within – it teaches me about the soul that goes into art. All in all, I would find inspiration for my work from the situations and environments I find myself in and my own internal thoughts and feelings. The city is my head and the countryside my heart.
LC – How is your creative process?
MH – My creative process differs every time. Sometimes it is a complex and personal journey that involves delving into one’s thoughts, emotions, and experiences to tell a story. Other times I just have a random flow of ideas, make some sketches or mood boards, and try to recreate that. However, even if I have a specific idea in mind, most of the time, the shoot itself never turns out the way I imagined – but I love that. Also, the amount of postproduction varies from project to project – anything from adding very little to completely transforming a photograph can be the case. Overall, I try to have as much flexibility and freedom as possible in my work rather than sticking to a particular structure or process, and I believe this is reflected in the final images I produce.
LC – Did your style change over the years? In which way?
MH – Oh yes, my overall aesthetic language definitely changed over the years and is probably still evolving. When it comes to photography, I started out in studio settings during my undergrad. I was then experimenting with different lighting techniques, camera settings, film photography, graphic design, styling, and all kinds of things to understand what I liked and didn’t like. It quickly turned out that I wasn’t really drawn to over-polished studio shoots and took a step into shooting in more outdoor locations. I travelled a lot, preferably to places full of mystery to western culture, and photographed without wild concepts behind what I was doing. I just fell in love with the idea of creating narratives out of what the place and situation would give me. Most of my photographs were something between documentary and storytelling with little editing. I still love wandering around, capturing what my eyes find interesting, and telling authentic stories. However, at the moment, my visual style has shifted to something more abstract, colour-drenched, and surreal. I took a step back from replicating reality to create images that offer a unique perspective. Those images may require a double take, leave some open questions, and the viewers will make up their own narratives drawn from their experiences. Overall, I believe that personal style comes from within and is a natural expression of one’s individual personality and preferences.
LC – How do you feel when you see your work completed?
MH – Seeing my work completed is a satisfying and fulfilling experience. It is a moment to reflect on the effort and creativity that went into creating the final image. At the same time, I may also feel a sense of gratitude towards any individuals that supported me during this process.
LC – What do you think about the concept of this exhibition? How did it inspire you?
MH – One of the things that particularly interested me about this exhibition was the opportunity to think deeply about the ways in which our bodies and the spaces we occupy intersect and influence one another. It was inspiring to consider how our identities are shaped not only by our personal experiences and backgrounds but also by the larger cultural, social, and urban contexts in which we find ourselves.
LC – Do you agree with our vision of art and what do you think about the theme of the exhibition?
MH – I particularly identified myself with the idea of connecting artists working in every part of the world. Both the interdisciplinary and international representation of artists at the exhibition was inspiring!
LC – Do you think ITSLIQUID GROUP can represent an opportunity for artists?
MH – Yes, giving young artists a platform and an opportunity to exhibit their work internationally can be a great way to expand your network and get in contact with other artists and art lovers.
LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
MH – Yes, I did. It was fun.
LC – What do you think about ITSLIQUID Platform?
MH – It is a great opportunity to collaborate with ITSLIQUID due to its physical presence worldwide through its galleries and online presence.
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