Düsseldorf 03/2019 by Helene Vienna
A body is never just a body to me. It inhabits a character, a soul, an individual. It moves, it breathes, it ages. Although it’s one, it contains many. Helene Vienna
Like a landscape – if it fascinates me – I spend hours admiring it. If you take it as a whole, there might be one little detail standing out. Something that doesn’t fit in, making the scene special, different, colorful or plain … it makes it something. You start questioning, exploring, and discovering. This discovery, to me, is a wonderful exercise to not simply generalize.
Dana and I have spent a lot of time together. (Maybe not enough in actual time measurement, but enough in a way that we have a sense of each other.) After two years of entering each other’s life, she’s become a soul sister of mine. When you get the chance to really get to know a person, then it’s not just the words and stories you listen to. It’s the little things that all come together in just one person. The surprises, the disagreements, the otherness.
When she came to visit in March, shortly before my birthday, we took the time to sit down in my (old) studio. I’d been telling her that I always wanted to try a proper studio shoot with plain backdrops and some lighting. I’d wanted to focus on the little details of a person. (Not that I hadn’t in the past, but the studio scenario felt more of an examination like a doctor would do at his practice.)
So, we sat down to both go on a discovery spree. I saw the dry skin on her elbow, reminding me of elephant skin, of Dana’s powerful and yet gentle appearance. I’ve always appreciated how masculine her hands look, like those of someone working physically hard. The little birthmarks between her breasts like messages saying You don’t have to speak loudly so that I can hear you. The scars where a dog had bitten her, bringing back stories from my past. A thick skin to prevent any harm. A thin layer of goosebumps showing signs of fragility. All the curves and edges, the highs and lows telling me that humans are complex.
The next time I categorize another being, I should remind myself of this examination. A person is never just one thing. Even when categorizing is simpler and helps us deciding quickly. A fast decision isn’t always the best one.
Model: Dana (@_wildabout_)
Helene Vienna is a film photographer based in Dusseldorf.