Abdullah Ezik talked with Helena Blomqvist, who met with art lovers in Turkey as part of the 212 Photography Istanbul festival, about her photography works, and her photo series titled “The Last Golden Frog” and “Florentine”.
Educated at Gothenburg University, Helena Blomqvist’s dream-like imagery transports us into the subconscious.
Blomqvist works intuitively, condensing and translating her impressions and experiences into a visual language with intricate and subjective stories that are uniquely her own. She builds a world by hand using models and props, into tiny scenographies piece by piece for her photographs. Blomqvist’s work has been widely exhibited, and during 2012 she had a big exhibition at Swedish Museum of Photography in Stockholm.
Her projects include “Florentine” – an exhibition of images, as seen through the eyes of a faded ballerina, whose mental state and solitude colour her rich life story. Another project, “The Last Golden Frog”, thrusts apes into a central role in exploring the sorrow, friendship and conflict of the human condition, amidst a growing climate crisis.
You meet with art lovers in Turkey through the 212 Photography Istanbul festival. First of all, how would you introduce yourself to the audience in Turkey?
I make a dreamy fantastical universe in my photographs. I build a world using models and props, into tiny scenographies piece by piece for my photographs. I work intuitively, weaving imagery into intricate and subjective stories that are uniquely my own.
As a branch of art, photography has become even more meaningful for everyone, especially under pandemic conditions. I think this situation affected many artists in different ways. What would you say about the relationship between pandemic and photography, and your approach to photography as an artist?
It affected me in the way that the exhibition opportunities became fewer, because all the art galleries and museums were closed. I started working more with public commissions instead of making new art. My approach to photography have´nt really changed during the pandemic, I´m working on new series now.
In my opinion, the most striking thing in your photographs is the atmosphere you reflect in your productions. We can say that this atmosphere is one of the most important elements that determine your identity as an artist. What kind of preparation process is there in the background of your photos?
It starts with me getting an idea for a picture, which I make a sketch of, then I start collecting material for the picture, or build a small scenography, make a sculpture or sew if needed. I sometimes need to travel to do the background photograph. My scenographies and scuptures for my images is often the most timeconsuming part of the process.
The models, mannequins, clothes and colors you use in your photographs make us realize that the works in question meet us after a serious preparation process. Is photography a fiction, a created scene for you?
Imagination is the driving force for me. The story is not like a movie with that narrative, but more like a dream, a mood, or like stills from a movie, a highlight of a staged moment.
Where is the viewer in a photo? Should the viewer dive deeper into a photograph with you or should they evaluate the artwork in question with an outside eye?
It´s fantastic if the viewer wants to dive deeper into my photographs.
At first glance, your photos feel like they came out of a fairy tale, evoking a colorful and exciting evocation, but when we get a little closer and dig deeper, a completely different world emerges. What would you say about these scenes that you built in your photography world? Are there specific stories/tales that originate these narratives?
The narrative in my images origins from my head and my imagination. Maybe all my works are autobiographical, I start from myself when I create, but I also work very intuitively and capture moods from my contemporaries and surroundings. I use to work with themes that really engages me, like endagered species and very old ladies. I use the imagery of a fairytale to invite the viewer to my world and hopefully to evoke feelings in the viewer.
The way you use light and shadow in the Florentine series and the value these elements add to the photograph are of great importance for the understanding of the story. How can light and shadow affect the narrative/story of a photograph, the atmosphere the artist wants to convey?
I think about the light while I´m sketching for the idea of the image, the light and the colors sets the feeling in the work. I often use long exposure times to bring out a magic feeling in the high keys tones.
In The Last Frog series, you bring up two different ideas, the risk of being wiped off the face of the earth, and a struggle against it. Does every living thing/being want to leave a trace behind? What is at the root of this thought reflected in the photographs? As a photographer, how does this subject attract your attention?
Im very engaged in the environmental issues, the climate change and the 6th mass extinction. I think we have a very big responsibility as human beings to try to do something to change what´s happening. I made “The Last Golden Frog” in 2007, it´s a kind of fable story with a loose narrative to illustrate the fact that most of our wild animals soon are gone forever. In my pictures, they are protesting against their extinction through gathering a Liberation Infantry. We also meet the last golden toad in the last night of his life. The golden toad was one of the first species that gone extinct because of of the climate change.
As a final question, what awaits us in the future, both in Turkey and on international platforms?
I’m working on a continuation of “The Last Golden Frog”, a new image suite about a broken gang of animals, walking about in our present time. I will show the exhibition at gallery Forsblom in Helsingfors, Finland.