I am just there letting it all happen I
“The lines between fashion and art got blurred – as a photographer I want to make my pictures appear as „fashionable“ in a hidden way: when you look at them you do not recognize it immediately but you are able to feel it.” tells me Austrian photographer Helga Traxler, whose images have that certain something that makes you observe them for more than just a moment. I love her images and the fact that a picture can still hold a surprise – for instance I only discovered a small airplane in one of her images, after looking at it for the fourth time…
I read that with your work you want to show the viewer something about yourself, show your personality, and it´s a way of handling self-discovery. So who is Helga Traxler?
Well, it´s quite difficult to describe oneself. But I would say that Helga Traxler is a very openminded, spontaneous, authentic young women who is absolutely addicted to taking pictures - constantly keeping her eyes open for the „daily offers“ …
What is a good picture for you?
It should arouse the viewers attention and the beholder should get stuck somehow. Doesn´t matter if it´s a portrait or not – it easily has to „WOW“ me and I would like to take a look „behind“. In this case I want to quote one of my favourite artists – the London based JOHN STEZAKER: He is playing a lot with portrait and found footage, mixing up different layers and creating new pictures through collage – this approach shows up in my photographies a lot: „The works that you produce are very dependent on an active participant. They are not just images that can be consumed as fact. They have to be activated by the act of reading, looking and gazing. Always leave constitutive blanks for the beholder to fill in.“
Do you think every person is photogenic at the end?
Most of the time I work with „non-professional“ models, very often friends or people I pass by, and their face or appearance attracts my attention. It´s very important to spot the special aspects of a face and yes, I think in the end everybody is photogenic. During working I count on my flexibility and the „flow“ and I try to create a situation in which the models are allowed to feel free and save. For me a photo-shooting should always be fun – doesn´t matter if it´s for money or not.
You didn´t initially start with fashion photography, right? What attracted you to this field?
I got kind of „pushed“ into that „fashion-business“ – because 2009 I won the editorial award for fashion photography by UnifF – for a series of mine called „When I was a Child“. From that day on I got „stamped“ as „fashion photographer“ altough I personally would say the image structure in my works hold a balance between fashion and art. Perspectives and chosen details, gestures and the chromaticity of the pictures evoke the asthetics, because the lines between fashion and art got blurred – as a photographer I want to make my pictures appear as „fashionable“ in a hidden way: when you look at them you do not recognize it immediately but you are able to feel it.
You have been living and working in quite a few places already – do you have any favourite out of those? What influences and inspiration did you take from all those different places?
After my a-levels I moved to Barcelona to work as an Au-Pair – that was a very good experience in order to realize that I am able to deal with new living-situations and surroundings quite easily.The different mentality and the people I got to know certainly influenced my decision regarding my studies and it also changed my attitude. When I came to New York in 2010 for the Internship at „Walter Schupfer Management“ for 3 months, I would have never imagined that everything will turn out like that. I had some assistant jobs and got to know the New Yorker Stylist Jon Tan who gave me the opportunity to take backstage and runway pictures during the fashion week. It was a great chance which opened up some doors and gave me a real good view „behind“ the fashion-scene. I really appreciate this backup. After my stay I moved to Lisbon for almost one year to do some research for my master thesis and to study at the Faculty of Fine Arts. This step was without a doubt the biggest contrast ever – New York and Portugal couldn´t be more different. It took me quite a long time to get along with the mood, and „pace“ in Portugal – but after a while I really began to enjoy the relaxed behaviour and happiness of the Portuguese people. They are able to celebrate and really enjoy life. So my stay in Lisbon calmed me down and was filled me up with a lot of new energy for future projects and for finishing my masterstudies in Linz. I really think that travelling broadens the mind and gives you some priceless input for creative work – as long as itʼs fullfilling for yourself you should take the chance. But as much as I love travelling and living in other countries my friends and family are at „home“ – and this will always be in Austria.
What´s next for you- are you going back to New York?
Two weeks ago I did my master-degree in Visuell Communication (focusing on photography) at the University of Arts in Linz and YES, I will be back to New York in September to start a new life. I do not know yet for how long excactly but I wanna give it a try. I am absolutely excited about my post-graduate life in New York and curious on how the city will treat me. It is certainly going to be a challenge – especially since the photographer-fashion-business is considered a hard one. But I wanna try my best because no other place on earth has ever given me that incredible feeling of satisfaction, motivation and happiness – even when I was sometimes completely on my own. The flow of the city shows you that everything is possible and I think that is why the big apple is so unique.
And where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Working for various magazines as a freelance photographer with still enough time for art cooperations and doing exhibitions – busy but happy and satisfied with my job.
5 things you cannot live without?
Friends/Family, Coffee, Music, my Cam, a Pen and Paper.
Your biggest life lesson so far?
Keep calm, work hard and believe in yourself– cause the things are happening anyway.
A clothes portrait- notes on fashion photography
All images by Helga Traxler