Meet The Artist Series Spotlights Nicole Helegda whose photographs are currently on exhibit at Wayne State University
Nicole Helegda has a unique style of her own. She explains the meaning behind her current exhibit, which is featured in this article, in her own words;
“The series Hilton & Saratoga focuses on powerful memories: selfless self-portraits of myself existing in a landscape unseen and photographic depictions of happiness, loss, and despair that I have experienced as a deeply sentimental and empathetic person throughout my life. Objects and places have always held extremely intense memories for me, and I often carry them around as baggage. I obsessively document and hoard mementos of past lives, happy memories, upsetting memories and turning points. Constantly associating people with places and possessions causes them to ascend into memento mori iconography.
A great friends beautiful wedding, the loss of the local ice cream store in the winter months, my godmothers heroin addiction, my fathers battles with cancer, the death of my grandfather, as well as other members of my family all hold life changing trajectory significance in my brain. I often need a good deal of time to cope and fully comprehend a life changing event, and when they are forced upon me I rebel in terrible ways.” – Nicole Helegda
Your history in the Detroit area and where you live now?
Originally I’m from Metro Detroit, and my parents have spent most of there lives in Metro Detroit as well. I was born and raised in Royal Oak, Michigan, and graduated from Dondero High School. When I was 24 years old a friend of mine moved to the Woodbridge neighborhood in Detroit and had all of his prospective roommates back out on him at the last moment, after he had signed the lease. So, on a whim I moved out of my parents house and in with him. Hands down best decision I’ve ever made. That was almost five years ago now and Detroit still has me hooked. I love how eclectic it is, I’ve learned so much about life since I came here. Royal Oak is only a few mile away but it’s a completely different world.
What is your passion? Film or digital photography?
I’m almost exclusively a film photographer. I’ve realized I don’t find much joy working with digital, and it’s not worth trying to hustle my skills for something I don’t believe in. I’m a terrible liar, so everyone would know my heart wasn’t in it. If film dies, it dies, and I might have to re-evaluate my process, but I’ll be fighting tooth and nail to save film as long as I’m able.
The concept of perfection in digital media, truthfully, freaks me out. Perfection is already a slippery slope that I struggle with as someone with Attention Deficit Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive tendencies. Embracing the mistakes and surprises that film has given me is so much more satisfying. My favorite photographs are never the perfect ones. In my commercial life I’m usually photographing musicians and artists, the photographer Robert Frank always said “shoot your people”, and those are the people I know.
I’ve been photographing and hanging around Detroit musicians since I was like 16 years old. My two most recent gigs were photographing the bands Pink Lightning and The Pretty Ghouls in 35mm and Polaroid. A bunch of other collaborations are in talks as well, one with an artist blog and another with a record label and I’m so excited to see where the next few months will lead me.
Your educational and training for photography?
I’ve been at Wayne State University now for four years. Nine more credits and I’m done. I’ve studied film processes under the Professors Marilyn Zimmerman, Millee Tibbs and Deb Kingery at Wayne State and Professor Rob Kangas at Oakland Community College.
All of them amazing instructors. I’ve been looking into artist residencies after I graduate and hopefully grad school somewhere on the east or west coast in fall 2016 or 2017.
When did you become interested in photography?
I can’t even remember. I’ve been photographing since I was a small child. My first camera was a Pentax Spotmatic SLR originally owned by my father. In high school I was involved in the Photography Club, and I took some darkroom classes at Oakland Community College.
When I was 19 years old I set down my analog camera and didn’t pick it up again for 5 years. That was definitely one of the worst decisions I’ve ever made. Moving to Detroit brought me out of this hazy depression I’d been in for so long and made me pick up my camera again.
I started documenting the new world I was experiencing and it felt so wonderful. Not long after that I enrolled at Wayne State and I haven’t looked back since. Here I am four years later and I bring my camera with me almost everywhere!
I’m about to graduate and apply to grad school, I’ve got my first solo show!
Who inspires you?
The artists Patti Smith, Tilda Swinton, Wes Anderson, Autumn DeWilde and Jim Jarmush are five people who constantly inspire me.
They’ve all built careers creating what they love, and they’ve all done it in their own way with their own flavor. I see these people as extremely poised in their beliefs, extremely intelligent, cheeky but not insolent. The inhale every influence and inspiration they come across but they only keep what feels legitimately true to their hearts. Their collaborations are also just as true, and you see them working with the same people over and over again. I think that’s why they always seem so authentic and at the top of their game.
I filled Autumn DeWilde’s order once when I was working at a camera store in the Detroit suburbs. Full of film! It was so inspiring to see that she still uses it all the time, because she doesn’t mention her process much in the articles I’ve read about her.
And I’ve actually worked with Jim Jarmusch and Tilda Swinton, I was cast as Tilda’s Stand-In for the movie Only Lovers Left Alive and it it was mind blowing to see them work, 2 1/2 years later i’m still running off the artistic high I received from them. They live and breathe art and let all the extra stuff float away. I’ve really been trying to live by that philosophy since I came to Detroit.
I went onto the film set with the preconceived notion that everybody was going to be a jerk, and so I didn’t attempt to make friends. The cast and crew members ended up coming to me and breaking the ice. Turns out were into all the same things! We spent our time on set sharing analog film techniques, talking about our best analog film scores off ebay, old foreign films and how much we all loved Iggy Pop and David Bowie. It was the best.
Contact info, and anything else you would like to share?
My website is currently in revamp mode, but you can still check it out! www.nicolehelegda.com
I’ve still got my biography up there and links to my facebook artist page and my flickr.
Thanks so much for the interview, Nicole! I know you are pretty busy with finals; so good luck with that!
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