Artist Blog

Every week an artist whose single image was published by Der Greif is given a platform in which to blog about contemporary photography.

Making an image

Apr 17, 2020 - Elena Helfrecht

“Der Vogel kämpft sich aus dem Ei. Das Ei ist die Welt.
Wer geboren werden will, muss eine Welt zerstören.”


“The bird fights its way out of the egg. The egg is the world.
Who would be born must first destroy a world.”

 

Hermann Hesse, Demian (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2002), pp. 86–87

 

 

For me, there are two streams for making an image, flowing into the same river of thought. Both involve creating, rather than taking an image. Sometimes, images find me in my (day)dreams, while reading or looking at something, or they appear as erratic flashes, staying with me like a constant whisper that will only vanish when given a body of its own. These images involve a certain amount of planning. They have to be built from scratch and are often a struggle, as the creative action of extracting an idea and giving it a shape is always a process of translation. As such, something gets lost, and I use photography as the way with the least possible damage.

 

The second way of making an image is more spontaneous and involves looking at the world without searching. Wherever I look, I cannot escape the filter of my consciousness, sometimes looking at things and seeing something else. When this happens, something in my mind locks in place and the outer and inner realities at once overlap like the red and green of an anaglyph, revealing a new dimension. It is impossible to plan or foresee this phenomenon, but I believe the image is created nonetheless, as choosing the framing, altering the light, and making other changes, are conscious manipulations of reality as-is. Given its sudden nature, this process implicates a shorter distance from thought to image and is, therefore, much simpler.

 

Nonetheless, the underlying process of both ways of creating is the same, and I wrote about this in my MA thesis last year. Inner space is extended through the camera into the image, cut off, and materialised as an entity and space of its own. Making an image, for me, is both creation and destruction, and I found the association of the photographer as a mother, their mind as a womb, the camera as a birth canal and the image as a child to be a helpful model for understanding my process. The idea or vision is the first seed. The camera then becomes a connecting medium, a door between inside and outside, through which the image is delivered into its newfound existence. The shutter slices and silences the reality in front of the lens, forging what Barthes describes as a flat death in Camera Lucida. Somewhere in this extraction, a piece of myself has died and has been given a body of its own, which can be encountered by the viewer and become something new once again.