DPP Home Profiles Elias Wessel: Euro Pop

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Elias Wessel: Euro Pop

Elias Wessel’s delicately constructed imagery finds a home in the New York world of fine-art fashion

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Wessel studied extensively in Europe, apprenticing in every aspect of a production, from photographer to producer. He has brought a distinct European pop sensibility to America’s fine-art fashion world, and his approach to commercial haute couture has made him a rising star in the New York scene.
An American Sensation
Wessel finds New York a constant source of encouragement, and he hasn’t experienced any other places in the world where you can put together a project from start to finish with such a limitless talent pool of creatives. The cultural diversity of his newfound home gives him unbelievable inspiration for his photography, and now that he has learned to “read between the lines,” he finds it an incredible source of honesty and feedback, as well.

“I often had the impression in Europe,” he muses, “that it matters more what benefit you can get out of a project as far as getting new jobs or selling pictures. Most of the people I know and have met here are coming together from all over the world. They all came to New York because they have confidence in their work and it is their dream to create—not to make business. I still refuse not to believe that it is passion and love that makes us do what we do. Everything else comes when it comes.”

Nonetheless, success seems to be heading Wessel’s way. His images have found intense popularity all over the web, posted on blogs, image Tumblrs and online art sites. He appreciates the attention, and he says that it reminds him of why he came to New York in the first place. “It shows me that there are millions of people out there,” he says, “who truly admire my work just as I did and do with so many photographers.”

Wessel also says that there’s huge potential as far as marketing, but he’s too busy taking pictures to take advantage as much as he should be. Wessel laughs that it may not be the right strategy, and even though he doesn’t want to struggle for the rest of his life, he never started taking pictures because of business. Commercially, though, Wessel has found himself published in both the States and in Europe. He welcomes campaigns that come his way from either side of the pond, and has found himself working on everything from editorials to album covers to jewelry. While there are osten-sible differences between the popular styles in the U.S. and in Europe, what matters most to him is the final picture that he envisions.

“During my studies,” he says, “I often had a hard time to legitimize some of my works that were often influenced by American photographers. Everything had to be based on an idea, but the idea of creating something beautiful just because of beauty’s sake was proscribed. I get goose bumps by works that touch me visually, as well as from works that touch me emotionally or make me think. I like doing both. So I guess that I am kind of in between those two cultures. I love to stand in front of a picture and think, ‘Damn, why didn’t I do that?!’ No matter why it touches me and whether it is Juergen Teller, David LaChapelle or Takashi Murakami.”

Wessel learned to shoot with both film and digital, and currently shoots with a Hasselblad 503CW with a Leaf Aptus-II back. He has had plenty of experience in the darkroom, as well, and the analog process has taught him to get his image as close to perfect in the real world as possible, and to rely on digital only for the impossible.

“I see postproduction as a tool that I can use to change things which I cannot realize in reality,” says Wessel. “When I first got into it, I used it a lot. It was actually a good way to learn to be capable of doing my own post, but now I am getting very close with my actual shoot to the final result. There are a couple of stories, like “The Plaza,” “Slide,” “Inside” or “Helios,” where you cannot see a big difference between the original and the final photograph. In general, I would always prefer to put in the budget and have a whole circus riding down Broadway and burn down five buildings at the same time than to do it in post afterwards. I just want to add a little magic to reality.

I don’t want to limit myself just to photography,” he says. “Before and during my studies, I did so many things besides photography. Graffiti, painting, illustration, animation, short movies, posters, magazines.... I love to cooperate with other artists on projects, and who knows if I will not mix medias like paintings and photographs in a future project.

“There are so many discussions and speculations,“ he answers when asked what he sees in the future of digital photography. “For me, personally, I do not see big changes at this point. Maybe I should, but I am very confident about where I want to go with my work. Look at all the big photographers. They were able to produce the most wonderful timeless photographs, and these are not dependent on gear. It’s not the equipment that takes the pictures. It’s the photographer—their minds, their visions, their personality, their heart.”

In the meantime, Wessel isn’t too worried about his own future. He’s concentrating on shooting and letting things fall as they may.

“I got the best advice,” he says, “when I met David LaChapelle the other day: ‘There are two dirty words in photography. One is art, and the other is good taste. Beauty is intellect, and glamour has nothing to do with money.’ Terry Richardson also told me a while ago: ‘Life is a beautiful thing, man.’ So there is not a lot more to add. Have fun. Do not accept defeat, and strive to be happy.”

To see more of Elias Wessel’s photography, visit www.eliaswessel.com.


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