Elena Helfrecht: “Plexus”

Exploring The Void

Photobook Reviews, Episode 3 – by Kate Schultze

I’ve been fascinated by Elena’s photography for a good few years now after seeing her work “Unternächte” probably on a late night scroll on instagram. I’ve become a little obsessed with her style (which now has its own little fan club on the good old flickr btw) I guess the only way to describe it for me is magical realism. She plays with familiar and placid elements of reality, yet brings a certain aspect of surrealism to the table that adds elements of unease and makes you wonder if the way you’ve perceived reality so far has been a bit too superficial and boring.

Publisher

VOID

Layout

Hardcover, 24x30cm, 104 pages

Price

45 €

Link

Now that we’ve established I’m a big Elena Helfrecht fan, let's look at her book Plexus published by VOID in 2023. Plexus deals with the subject of family trauma, specifically exploring the history of her female ancestors. After the death of Elena’s grandma, she goes back to Bavaria and makes the house that's been in her family for over 200 years her stage. The estate and its everyday objects take on their own life and, in Elena's words, serve as “protagonists for an allegoric play”. Through this allegoric play Elena explores the void which many photographers find themselves questioning: what lies between past and present, between myth and truth, between personal memories and collective cultural memory.

The collection of black and white photographs, often lit with a harsh flash, together with archival images and fragmentally-shown-divided photographs invite you to make up your own story of how these objects and interiors could be linked. As a viewer we are forced to spend time to try and firstly decode the strangeness of the image itself and afterwards what these humanless scenes evoke in our own memory. We find ourselves asking, just as Megan Williams askes in the Creative Review, “if walls really could talk, what would they reveal?” - probably something like this.

If you are interested in further exploring a photographer's relationship to the void, I highly recommend reading Tim Carpenters “To Photograph Is To Learn How To Die”. Another beautiful example of everyday objects taking on their own life and story is Max Zerrahn*s new photobook “Musical Chairs”.