Last Updated on 09/24/2023 by Chris Gampat
“One day, while I was casually hanging out laundry in my parents’ garden, something caught my eye,” says photographer Helga Stenzel to the Phoblographer in an interview about her whimsical images. “My son’s track pants, as they hung, bore a striking resemblance to a horse’s head. Almost impulsively, I added my husband’s black jumper, a teatowel, and a handful of pegs.” From there, she created her first clothesline animal — Pegasus. And the rest is just photography. But there’s something incredibly playful about Helga’s photos that harkens to the inner child we all hush for a kind society.
Helga earned her degree in Graphic Design and Advertising. She started out photographing children’s clothing and found it pretty uninspiring. Instead, she switched to candid snapshots of her life. Then her Instagram following grew — and the fun photos that she shot lead to commissions and opportunities. “It became evident that these visual anecdotes held the potential to evolve into a creative venture in its own right,” Helga tells us.
To do this, she’s used a Canon 5D Mk II and the 24-105mm lens that came with it. Recently, though, she was honored as a Hasselblad Heroine. From there, she was given a Hasselblad X2D. “The nuances of color it captures and the intricacies of detail it preserves are truly astonishing,” she tells us. She eventually paired it with the Hasselblad 45mm f4.
Since playing with that single photo, she started to experiment more with it. “I got an opportunity to add another creature to my laundry farm,” Helga jokes. “I noticed that my son’s old pink colourblock t-shirt looked a lot like a cow’s head, so I added my brown jacket, two pegs, and just like that, the entire animal – Smooothie – came to life.” Yes, she names her creations. Psychologically speaking, this is pretty important as it gives them life.
Helga strives for simplicity in her photos. She doesn’t want them to get all that complex and instead just has fun doing it. Sometimes, she does them with only one pair of clothing.
This creativity came to her from a very young age. Helga spent lots of time with her grandmother in a village. Entertainment was limited and the infrastructure to support wasn’t really there either. So Helga had to find a way to keep herself amused. “Even while snug in bed, I’d gaze at the carpet on the opposing wall, squinting until the flowers seemed to metamorphose into a whimsical dragon,” she tells us. “Then, I’d shift my focus to the floor, eagerly seeking out parrots and hedgehogs concealed within the wood knots beneath my bed. The feeling of uncovering something overlooked by everyone else in the family was profoundly satisfying—it was as if I was an explorer on a unique mission.” This is something we find in so many artists that grew up outside of cities — at least that’s what they share with us in our interviews. And for Helga, this skill stuck with her.
“All it takes is a deliberate pause and a closer examination of our surroundings to uncover the remarkable within the ordinary.”
Helga’s photos are innately human — and so we just had to ask her about her thoughts on AI photography. She’s intrigued and fascinated by it. “The AI-generated architectural images I’ve encountered are nothing short of brilliant, conjuring worlds that flourish solely in someone’s imagination,” she tells us. “It’s a leap that takes us into a realm with no boundaries between what’s real and what’s not.” However, she’s all about reality. For her, it’s all about slowing down and observing the world to see it in a different way.