Suhm welcomes photographer Ruth Hellema.
Ruth Hellema | Photographic Artist | Melbourne, VIC
Suhm is excited to welcome Ruth Hellema, our first photographic artist. Through her lens we will see her “capture and highlight elements of the ordinary world that surrounds us”. Her recent minimalist architecture collection, ‘Urban Hues’ demonstrates a command of composition and a refined aesthetic. Hellema’s eye for clean lines, geometric shapes, and an absence of clutter immediately caught our attention and perfectly complements Suhm’s approach to image-making.
We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Hellema and discuss the inspirations behind her work.
What is your creative background?
When I am in a creative space, I find a sense of harmony, well-being, serenity, and freedom. So ever since I was young, I have dabbled (non-professionally) in different creative outlets. In 2005, I bought my first SLR and took a short course in photography. And so the fascination with photography began! Ever since then, I’ve been learning and experimenting.
How would you describe your aesthetic and your process?
Definitely Minimalist Architecture, sometimes crossing over into Abstraction.
As for the process, my first step is to find a subject, so a building I would like to shoot. I am always on the lookout: on my way to work, going for a walk, etc., or when I take my camera out and go exploring the streets. I like to use natural light, nearly always strong sunlight to capture the shadows, so I often return to a place on a number of occasions. Especially in Melbourne, where the weather is so erratic, there can be a very small window of opportunity to capture the coveted shot.
After taking a series of photos, I edit them in Photoshop and/or Lightroom to highlight the feature or detail that I am focusing on by cropping, removing distracting details, adjusting the light, and intensifying the colour or changing it. And that is where my process used to stop.
Recently, the post-production process has become more complex as I am seeking to introduce greater expression into my work: to imbue the photos with a sense of atmosphere and mood by refining the colour palette, drawing on the association between colour and emotion. In my black and white photos, I use light and shadows to create an emotional effect.
Your photography often captures beautiful compositions cropped from buildings that might otherwise be overlooked in terms of overall artistic merit. What are you looking for in a subject?
Really, I am looking for the striking — or potentially striking — in the ordinary. Striking in a totally subjective sense: something that impacts me because of its singularity. Essentially, forms, lines, juxtapositions, or contrasts. Most of all, I want to highlight the features or details we often overlook, so that they are seen. In our everyday lives, we don’t always really notice what is before us. I certainly didn’t until I started taking photos. It is not an exaggeration to say that photography has changed the way I see the world.
To give an example of the unnoticed becoming noticed, at an exhibition where I was showing a selection of my works, someone was curious to find out where all the buildings were located. I ran through the addresses and when I came to the last one, she exclaimed, “But that’s the street where I live!”.
Although my initial choice of subject is very personal, I do ask myself if others will be interested in it too. My greatest hope is that my work will hang in people’s homes or offices and that it will enhance their living space. Recently, I have more fully realised the impact a person’s living space can have on their well-being. Over the last couple of years, we all spent a lot of time at home and I was in an apartment I really wanted to move out of but couldn’t because of all the COVID restrictions.
Obviously, architecture is a passion of yours. Do you have any favourite architects?
I absolutely adore Antoni Gaudí and Ricardo Bofill, and Frank Gehry is another favourite. Locally, I like many of the buildings designed by McBride Charles Ryan Architects: sometimes their colours can be a bit garish, but the forms and lines are superb and quite original.
Most inspiring building you’ve seen in person?
The most incredible buildings I have seen in person are La Alhambra, La Sagrada Familia, and The Guggenheim Museum all in Spain, and The Duomo in Florence, Italy. But these places haven’t really inspired my work as my photos don’t tend to be of famous buildings. However, an exception is the interior of the Ian Potter Centre in Federation Square, Melbourne. The ceiling, in particular, is mesmerising with its artistic interplay of geometry and light. Every time I go there, I find something new to photograph.
Where can we find you when you’re not making art?
I’m an Assessment Design Specialist at Monash College where I create authentic assessments for our international students. In my free time I love going to art exhibitions, watching movies, spending time with the people who are important in my life, and when I can, visiting Spain where I spent almost two decades. I have always been an avid reader, but these days I just don’t seem to find the time to pick up many books.
I tend to be pretty sedentary, but I enjoy going for walks (country or city, but I am quite an urbanite) and doing pilates.