Anne Helene Gjelstad
Camera:Canon 5D mk III.
Photographer:Richard Avedon & Mary Ellen Mark.
Food:Salads & ice-cream.
Country:Norway & Estonia.
Hotel:I prefer to stay in B&B or private.
Book:‘In the American west’ by Richard Avedon.
Anne Helene Gjelstad is an award-winning photographer and her work has been published in books, magazines and newspapers. She has held solo exhibitions and participated in collective exhibitions locally and internationally. Anne Helene had a long career as a fashion designer before she followed her childhood dream and became a photographer. She is educated at the Norwegian National Academy of Craft and Art Industry and at Bilder Nordic School of Photography. Anne Helene is also a licensed teacher and hosts her own workshops in portrait photography and postproduction.
Anne Helene Gjelstad loves photographing people the most – honest pictures of unique individuals. She especially love photographing the young because they are being who they are in front of the camera: No fences, no pretensions and teaching us that it is enough to simply be who we are. She aims to capture our inner landscapes and to take portraits that mean something to the person themselves as well as the viewer. Everybody deserves a really good portrait and this is her goal. To Anne Helene the eyes are the most important in a portrait: ‘The eyes reflect our truth, gains and losses; they mirror our inner being, our souls’.
Since 2008 Anne Helene Gjelstad has been documenting the lives and heritage of the remarkable elderly women on the small Estonian islands of Kihnu and Manija in the Baltic Sea. True to tradition, they still live the old-fashioned way by wearing traditional costumes and by passing handicraft skills down through generations. Her solo exhibition ‘Big heart, strong hands’ is still on tour in Estonia after four years. It was even been exhibited in the National Museum in Tartu and the lobby of Parliament in Tallinn. Two of her images were also part of the exhibition Intangible Cultural Heritage in National Art Museum of China in May 2014 and Anne Helene was invited to the grand opening, which she describes as ‘huge’.
-How did you first become interested in photography?I wanted to be photographer when I was 14 and was advised not to, so it all started way back. I have been totally obsessed with photography the last nine years.
-When did you decide to become a professional photographer?Nine years ago, after 25 years as a fashion designer, I decided to follow my childhood dream and learn the craft.
-What words best describe your style of photography?My key words are soulful, honest, beautiful, respectful, truthful and connection. This is what I strive for.
-What is your post-production workflow like?I take a lot of images to get the best expression and culling in Photo Mechanic saves me a lot of time. I then bring my first selection into Lightroom where I pick the final and do all the adjustments possible. I love post processing and continue in Photoshop.
I often use Alien Skin Exposure for toning as well as several actions and layers for toning. For skin retouch I use Fashion Skin Pro from Emily Soto (link) and Fashion Actions. This is a great technique that I also use on flyaways, backgrounds and even to ‘iron’ garments.
-Where does your inspiration come from?I have always been interested in people and in our lives so much inspiration comes from here and from nature. And of course from our great photographers, vintages photos, movies and artists in general. Colours are also very important as inspiration and for the final image.
-Do you have a dream project?My dream is to get my Kihnu project ‘Big heart, strong hands’ further out to show these incredible, old Estonian women to a broader audience. I would love to have another major exhibition of this work as well as a to publish a book. This is such an amazing culture and needs to be preserved for the future. You can see more of this work here.
-In regard to your ‘Ballet Shoes’ project, where did this idea come from and what has your experience been like shooting with the Eleanor Muslin Backdrop?I actually found Emily Soto through your newsletter a few years ago and was so inspired by her work. When she announced her workshop in London half a year later I knew I had to go. She is such a talented, lovely person. And of course I follow Emily’s work so her Eleanor backdrop was a natural choice for me when I decided to photograph young dancers. I needed a versatile, large backdrop for this and for my portraits and fashion work as well.
The Eleanor Muslin Backdrop is of such a great, sturdy quality – it is really beautiful. The colour is great as it is, and even more it can be tweaked in so many directions to greyish, purple, brownish and so on in postproduction. I have a daylight studio and I love the images shot with natural light and shallow depth of field. And of course Eleanor backdrop is great for studio lighting as well. My included ‘Ballet Shoes’ images are all shot at the same time with Eleanor backdrop, it is the postproduction that makes the difference.