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Elias Wessel Creates A Wonderland for Lydia Hearst

I was lucky enough to steal a couple minutes of Elias Wessel’s time this past week over a cup of coffee in Midtown.  It had been a couple weeks and I wanted to see the images from his recent project.

“We just created a color exploding dreamy rainbow-like eye candy of grandiose surrealism with supermodel Lydia Hearst. A cover story for Norway’s most glamorous art- music- and fashion magazine Vixen. The story was shot in a penthouse of the breathtaking Ansonia building on the upper west side in New York. It was a perfect fairytale atmosphere in one of the towers of the building. Cherry blossoms, huge rounded windows facing Broadway and we had 10 super-excited black cats and a lot of gear all over the place. My shoots are all about creating a mood I want to breathe into my photographs and that only works when everyone on set absolutely feels what we do. We all felt as if we were on a rainbow in a modern Hansel and Gretel witch house surrounded by pink cotton candy clouds after a never-ending party-night where nobody came. So obviously we created a very twisted story inspired by the glamor of the movie “Stepford Wifes”, combined this with a lot of personal and religious elements and let the absolutely adorable Lydia come alive in this wonderland.”

Elias Wessel-Vixen Cover-Motion-RETV Spring 2010-Behind the scenes from RETV from Resource Magazine on Vimeo.

ELIAS WESSEL
VISUAL ARTIST / PHOTOGRAPHER
www.eliaswessel.com

The Making of THE METAMORPHOSIS; Based On a Franz Kafka Novel featuring Supermodel Omahyra Mota

The concept of the Omahyra Mota shoot is based on Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis”. The story has been shoot in New York for the cover of the Norwegian magazine “Vixen” including 4 spreads. The editorial focuses on an article about Dominican Republic supermodel Omahyra Mota.

Mota has modeled for designers such as Alexander McQueen, Fendi, Heatherette and Jean Paul Gaultier. Also, she was flown in especially by Gwen Stefani for L.A.M.B.’s show during New York’s Fashion Week and had acting roles in X-Men and the Jay-Z video “Change Clothes” together with Naomi Campbell. She is known for modeling both men’s and women’s clothing. Mota was voted one of People magazine’s 50 most beautiful people in 2001. She walked the Victoria’s Secret runway in the same year and worked with photographers such as Ellen Von Unwerth and Terry Richardson.

The Metamorphosis is a novella by Franz Kafka, first published in 1915. It is often cited as one of the seminal works of short fiction of the 20th century. Elias Canetti described it as “one of the few great and perfect works of the poetic imagination written during this century”. The story begins with a traveling salesman, Gregor Samsa, waking to find himself transformed into a vermin.

The Making of THE METAMORPHOSIS

Elias Wessel story opens with a picture of a crumbled foil he actually used to create distortions which appear in several pictures of the editorial. A visual translation for a facet eye vision of a vermin. Barely to notice but reflections of himself can be found in there. A hint that this could be the perspective of the metamorphosed Omahyra. What’s not to see is that there’s also a deep personal statement in this photograph dealing with the loss of his father-like friend. Nothing more is mentioned about this connotation so far but interesting about this could be the parallels to Kafka since it is very popular interpreting “The Metamorphosis” as an expression of Kafka’s father complex.

The actual cover shows Omahyra barely dressed in a shoulder cage designed by Heather Huey. It appears Omahyra is growing out of her own birdcage. The distortions of her legs create a feeling that something unnatural is happening. The effect was created by shooting partially into mirror foil. Beside visualizing some kind of metamorphosis with this, it also gives the 80’s look of the picture a future twist since the effect reminds of digital postproduction filters.

The photographs use distortions and vermin elements as main element. The insect tatoos on Omahyra’s arms, butterfly and hornet pike like headpieces, hoofed and snake leather Louboutin shoes and a top which decor reminds of fly eyes… and in between a pure reflection of Omahyra appearing as a free huge winged bird flying into the open sky.

Talent Omahyra Mota
Photographer Elias Wessel
Vixen Magazine Editors Marianne Jemtegard, Anetter L’Orange
Stylist Storm Pedersen
Hair Yoichi Tomizawa
Make Up for Illamasqua Cosmetics Viktorija Bowers
Photo Assistant Silas Brown
Styling Assistant Adrian Diaz
Hair Assistant Taigo
Making Of Christopher Riemann
Interviewer Kjiersti Flaa
Location Tribeca Skyline Studios
Lighting broncolor

ELIAS WESSEL
VISUAL ARTIST / PHOTOGRAPHER
www.eliaswessel.com

An Interview with broncolor Featured Photographer Elias Wessel

We caught up with Elias Wessel on a shoot this week.  Here’s what he had to say:

CK: How did you become a photographer?  Describe your career development?

EW: I would have to say that graffiti was the catalyst for my love of art. At the age of 16 meeting Sigmar Polke at his huge retrospective in Bonn, Germany made me even more interested in fine arts. Following that, I started to draw and then  had paintings exhibited about 2 years later.   Also during that time, my best friend, who I had a crush on, moved to London.    Our only source of communication was through mail. I wanted my mails to look good and make her feel special on top of what I wrote to her.   I created my own envelopes by cutting out my favorite pictures out of hundreds of magazines.   I collected thousands of tearsheets and still remember vividly pictures by David La Chapelle,  Guy Bourdin,  Jeff Koons and others who caught my breath.   Since then I have always wanted to be able to re-create these wonderful feelings that those pictures gave me and started to draw pictures and take photographs of everything I loved.

CK:  More specifically, was there one or more life changing moments that helped you move to the next level and become the photographer that you are now?  Perhaps a big break, a perfect mentor, a movie, a mystical moment?

EW:  What incredibly changed me and my work was the break up after 8 years with my former personal and professional friend and partner in 2008.   I had to start all over and ask myself what makes me unique as a photographer.   I figured the only possible answer can be:  Myself!   Beginning with my “Falling Up” story my work tells so much about me and that what makes it special.   However I am very often asked how I consider myself as a photographer and my style. There’s no straight answer which feels totally adequate to me.   You can say it is the way I play with time and freeze a moment or a motion.   V magazine recently published a selection of my work and wrote “When time stops, your pose had better be fierce”.   You can mention the saturated colors or the sort of magical realism.   It can be cheeky happiness,  subliminal concepts,  beauty or sensitiveness.   It always depends on the content of the story I am working on.   Those who know me can say it may be my personal experiences which are always somehow reflected in my photographs. I would say as everything changes and develops in life all this can change and develop from picture to picture as well.   There are moments every day which make me and my work more and more sophisticated.   You just have to be aware of them.

CK: How do you learn your techniques?

EW: Working at advertising agencies, design bureaus as well as assistant, production and studio manager made me understand the different parties who are involved in the process of creating photographs.   I know about their expectations, their thinking, their needs, their fears and about the whole process from the point of view of all participating sides.   Studying with a huge focus on theory helped me to achieve a general idea about any field of the arts, a basic knowledge about anything which deals with art, visual communication and its reception.   It can be a deep source for new ideas. Schooling didn’t really teach me about the technical side of photography or lighting.   That is something I learned by assisting and working in the fields of photography but even more by realizing one personal project after another.   It taught me how to create, communicate and realize ideas. And it can give you the time to experiment and to develop.   A while ago I met David La Chapelle here in New York and I remember how he reminded me how fortunate I can be of being able to do my own thing.   Even if it is not without a struggle.   Studying also taught me to get up and motivate myself every single day to work on my ideas because nobody really cared about what I did.   It can be dangerous depending of what kind of character you are but it also can teach you confidence in what you do and that you are the only one who is responsible for anything you do.

CK:  Who are your photo heroes? Or who has inspired your career?

EW:  There are so many.   It wouldn’t make sense to drop names.   Most of all I´m inspired by the reason why I´m doing this. I want to experience a feeling, that goes into bowels.   But I also want to create a transcendency so that this feeling reaches the viewer.   I also find very interesting the intersection between fashion and fine art photography and how to merge those genres. Typical fashion images focus on beauty and clothing as their central elements.   To me it is not fashion itself but the image that suppose to fascinate the viewer.   I believe that this is what appeals to clients who really care about being exclusive. At the end it all comes to the feeling you get from the picture you are looking at, not just the picture of the product.

CK: What is the worst part about doing what you do?

EW: If I could I would be out there taking pictures everyday. A huge part of photography deals with everything else than creating and taking pictures.

CK: What is the best part?

EW: All my works you see in this story have given me the most satisfaction because there are a lot of photographs that don’t make it. Every picture I’ve taken is from the past but it is the ones in the future that I’m looking forward to taking most.

Learning from the Pro

EW:  What are we going to shoot today?

“Falling Up”. A personal project which will be exhibited in New York and also be published as editorial. Falling is something involuntarily. Something threatening you get forced to.   In contrast “Up” is a synonym for success.   This aporia results out of the two contrary moving directions: Down = falling and Up = Up.   A conflict which was indissoluble at that current period of my life.   “Falling” as well as “Up” relate to my very private and professional areas of life which were strongly linked over 9 years.   “Falling Up” is based on personal experiences, thoughts, symbols and metaphors. Analogies to “Mary Poppins”, “Rumpelstiltskin” and the “Shock Headed Peter” finally allow to express my emotions as well as making a statement about the current art and fashion industry.  “Falling Up” is a modern fairy tale out of my personal past, present and future.

CK: How did you learn how to do what you are about to show us?

EW: It’s probably the same answer I gave when asking me how I learned my techniques. To sum it up in one word I would have to say it’s experience.

CK: What tools are you using to make this image?

EW:  503 CW Hasselblad with a Leaf Aptus II – 7 with lenses from 25mm to 150mm. SBI ParaFb 170, Pulsoflex 80×80, Verso A4 and A2, beauty dish and P70 reflector, 2 Pulso heads, Ringflash P, the sun, clouds as well as my heart and my brain.

CK: Why did you choose these tools?

EW: “Falling Up” was shot on location in Long Island City, New York with a great mix out of different set ups including day and night shots. So being flexible without sacrificing quality and to be able to control every situation on set
was my first priority.   I took advantage of the para 170 using it as a soft filling light. With the heads and reflectors I was able to adapt to every single situation, setting highlights, focus on different parts of the scene. The Verso allowed me to add crunch and a little magic at the best possible speed.

CK: Did you use competing products in the past? What made you change?

EW: I worked with pretty much all available lighting and camera equipment and used everything from 35mm to large format cameras – film and digital.   I’m in the lucky position that I got into photography by using film and digital equipment at the same time. The experience of working in the dark room, processing my own films, making my own contact sheets and prints help me to understand what happens in digital photography and post production. Same with the lighting gear.   I always like to test all equipment which might be of any interest.   Currently I prefer working with the 503CW Hasselblad and the Leaf Aptus II always in combination with broncolor lights.   It just works for me and gives me the consistency and flexibility I need. The decision of the equipment I use as well as the decision of shooting in studio or on location depends on the pictures I have in mind. Not the other way around. The cooperation with Bron Imaging Group is based on how I use my lighting which plays a big role in my work and gives it it’s consistency.   No matter if I have a huge set up of lights or just a bare bulb in combination with available light. It always defines the look of my pictures and bron recognizes this.   But this cooperation is more than that.   The guys from bron are part of my team, part of my photo-family and they care about my work and about photography just as much as I do.   That is what really matters to me.

ELIAS WESSEL
VISUAL ARTIST / PHOTOGRAPHER
www.eliaswessel.com