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Matinee: 'Helene Schmitz -- Transitions' Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

24 September 2016

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 154th in our series of Saturday matinees today: Helene Schmitz -- Transitions.

This luscious 10-minute production by Johan Ståhlberg lets the Swedish fine art photographer Helene Schmitz, based in Stockholm, speak for herself (with captions for those of us still a little weak on on our Swedish).

As she speaks about each project, we see her gorgeously composed stills and, at the end, we even get to watch her work in large format on her latest series. You can see more of her work, which focuses on the evolving relationship of human beings to nature, on her Web site.

She began taking photographs as a teenager, she tells us, and knew by the age of 19 that she wanted to be a photographer. But this didn't go over well with her parents who wanted her to become a professional. An economist, a lawyer, a doctor. Anything but a starving artist.

'All my works are about time.'

She tried studying law for a year but when she took courses in film and fine arts, she found her path. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Stockholm University in Film and Art Theory.

Her 1996 project Livingrooms was based on a traumatic event in her own life, she says. A fire in her childhood home destroyed the building. She had moved out but wondered what had become of the place. So she went back. And conceived of a project that focused on the transformations the rooms had gone through and the layers of references and memories they contained. A row of charred books illustrates that last point.

Sunken Gardens from 2010 was a a byproduct of a trip to Suriname to photograph butterflies in a butterfly farm. But she found the farm itself captivating. Looking at the butterfly buildings, you lost of sense of what was inside and what outside, she said. The plastic, mold and moss created a fragile environment within the violent natural world.

In 2013 she turned to black and white for the Kudzu Project, documenting the invasive plant given to the United States in 1876 by the Japanese and a favorite in southern gardens for its shade, pretty flowers and fast growth. The insatiable plant transforms landscapes into something both familiar and unrecognizable, she says, as they cover everything in their grasp.

Her 2015 work Earthworks was inspired by the images of Namibia in the 1800s by Charles John Andersson. German diamond miners had built a village on the Atlantic coast next to the dessert. When the village was abandoned in the 1950s, the bulidings were overrun by sand blown by the winds off the ocean. She saw it as an hourglass of sorts, the unrelenting chaos of nature finally burying the wallpaper and fine joinery of human hands.

The Forest in 2016 documents a 2014 forest fire and its aftermath. This time human interaction with nature was the literal spark that started the transition. Nature, not humanity, is frail this time. Looking at the aftermath of the destruction, you can't help but think of global warming and climate change, she says.

"All my works are about time," she concludes. We are always striving for a kind of control that is unachievable. Particularly when it comes to that last transition we all must go through.

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