Anna McNay

Q&A with Liz Helman


Q&A with Liz Helman

on the occasion of 3×3: An exhibition of nine women photographers

New Art Projects, London

11 January – 4 March 2018

Anna McNay: What are
the key concerns or themes running through your practice?

Liz Helman:
Displacement and dislocation.

AMc: How much a part
of your work does self-portraiture form?

LH: At the
moment, not much.

AMc: As a woman
looking at a woman (herself – but perhaps also other women, if you also make
portraits of others), how aware are you of the conventions and load of the
female gaze? To what extent do you work with or subvert these?

LH: I neither
work with nor subvert, but, of course, I’m eyeballing you with my gaze and
sense of defiance! Art imitates life J 

AMc: How – if at all
– does your sexuality influence or shape your work, especially your

LH: It doesn’t.

AMc: As a woman who
likes women, looking at women, do you feel your gaze is different from the gaze
of a heterosexual woman artist? In what way?

LH: No, but it’s
all about attitude.

AMc: Can you say
something about the work you are submitting for this exhibition? How are you
seeking to portray yourself? What are the key aspects you’re drawing forth?
Physical, psychological, sociological?

LH: This work is
about belonging and understanding; choosing and eliminating. Not necessarily
queer, but about the choices we make in life per se. The gaze confronts these
questions. At the time I was really interested in biometric identification and
so I was exploring that. Biometric verification is any means by which a person
can be uniquely identified by evaluating one or more distinguishing biological
traits. Unique identifiers include fingerprints, hand geometry, earlobe
geometry, retina and iris patterns, voice waves, DNA, and signatures.

AMc: Do you seek to
portray yourself as object, subject, or both? How does this dynamic come
through in your work?

LH: Object and
subject can go together. This confronts the viewer, what the viewer makes of it
is their reading.

AMc: Do you work in
media other than photography? If so, how does the gaze offered by the camera
differ from the viewpoint obtained through other media? How does the experience
as artist differ? Does it make the act of looking easier or more difficult? If
you don’t work with other media, what is it about the gaze of the camera that
attracts you to working with photography?

LH: Yes, sound. I
look with my ears. But photography has always been my first love and I earn a
living as a picture editor and researcher and take pictures all the time. The
first time I was in a darkroom was when I was 12. I love photographs, period.

AMc: What one work of
art, depicting a woman as object – or subject, have you been most
influenced/impressed by and what is it about this work that captures you?

LH: I like the
work of Modigliani, but I am influenced by no one really; I just filter,
absorb, make. I do like the simplicity, colour and lines of his women.

Liz Helman


Liz Helman

Untitled. Belonging


Also published here