In Elias Wessel’s “Falling Up” series, a sequence shot as a simile for the ups and downs of personal and professional success, Wessel’s subjects find themselves frozen in that moment of absolute climax while their surroundings swirl in seeming chaos. There’s something to be said for the seductive appeal of restraint, and just as Helmut Newton used it metaphorically to explore old-world elegance and charm, Wessel’s images bristle with energy even when his subjects are frozen in time. His work is a sophisticated blend of opposites—sexuality and innocence, noir and pop, control and dynamism—and his fantastical urban paradise of neon, glitz and glamour is bringing European charm back to American haute couture.
Born and raised in Germany, Wessel studied extensively in Europe before bringing his unique eye to America. At the ripe old age of 31, Wessel is now a dedicated New Yorker, and he has spent the last few years applying his particularly elegant blend of stylization, magical realism and an intense color palette to Big Apple fashion. He says his main goal as a photographer is to be able to seamlessly mix fine art and fashion photography, and thanks to his concentration on composing a good image as a whole rather than as a vessel for the subject, clothes or jewelry, he has found a significant and loyal client base.
“The clients I have worked with have hired me not just because I am capable in realizing their imaginations,” he explains. “They have hired me for who I am, my opinion, my idea, concepts and my style. They hired me to work together with me and not just me working for them. At the end, it all comes out to the feeling that you get from the picture that you’re looking at, not just a picture of the product.”
Elias Wessel’s work is highlighting the great power of the Internet to act as an incredible promotional tool. His images are ubiquitous on the web, and every time he shoots a new campaign, it shows up instantly on blogs, image Tumblrs and other branches of the new breed of online art sites. Wessel points to his “Falling Up” series, published in FutureClaw Magazine in the U.S. and in Stylenoir in the UK, as the first to really bring him a great deal of attention, and it hasn’t slowed since. Wessel hasn’t been letting all of the ovation sway him from remembering his roots, however. “I started taking pictures of things I love,” he muses, “and I want to continue to do so no matter if it’s personal or commercial work.”
Self-confidence appeals to New York’s haute-couture elite, and Wessel has found himself shooting numerous campaigns for fashion mogul Betsey Johnson and others. He also has done a high-profile, high-fashion campaign for Bron Imaging Group, who’s the exclusive U.S. distributor for top-shelf imaging manufacturers like Sinar, Broncolor and others, and it’s emblematic of the amount of trust that he has received from recent clients. Wessel has a hard time giving a direct answer when asked to describe his own style, and he notes that each campaign is different, and he finds himself changing aesthetic depending on the needs of the shoot.
“It always depends on the content of the story that I am working on,” he points out. “I would say as everything changes and develops in life, all of this could change and develop from picture to picture, as well. I definitely have consistency in my works, which I see in the way I play with the lighting, but most of all, my pictures are supposed to tell a story. It can be without a beginning, a middle or an end, but they tell something.”