Words by Pernille Mo
Photography and illustration by Joakim Heltne
Divided between Norway and England, photography and illustration, Joakim Heltne has without a doubt found his calling. His minimalistic and clean language flows through both his forms of expression, however, his artwork is stripped down to a level he explains as “where there isn’t much left to look at.“
From his time in primary school, he drew any chance he got and initially wanted to be an architect. He mostly drew architectural sketches of houses and ships but as years went on, he started practicing portraits and found himself becoming pulled into the world of illustration. When he got into photography, he realized that his passion for drawing made him a better photographer and that having a strong eye for detail and understanding of technical elements, such as perspective and how light and shadows work became an advantage.
Joakim describes his work as minimalistic and clean, with a certain level of emotional storytelling. He wants to strip things down to a level where there isn’t much left apart from the most important details. This way, the viewer will have enough to study and reflect upon. However, when he takes portraits, he tries to make it more about the person than the surroundings.
"I always want to convey an emotion and hopefully portray some part of their personality. Sometimes I see things they don´t necessarily see in themselves, which I think is quite fascinating."
The Scandinavian way of life has always been something that has fascinated Joakim. The architecture and design has a very clean and strict look, without being too staged or controlled, which he is fond of. In his photography, he enjoys a certain order of things, but welcomes spontaneity quite frequently. A quote he likes by Antoine de Saint-Exupery says “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
"I believe there is something to the fact that less is more. While my style might be very stylized and clean, I’d like to think it’s also influenced by reality. I don't like retouching too much, as I want the people I portray to still be who they actually are, visually. I find the most interesting part about people to be their flaws."
Being fascinated by everyday situations, things laying on the pavement or a situation unfolding between people, his sense of reality is present in his work. He loves to stop and watch for a while and later on reflect on how it made him feel and use it in his work.
"To me, inspiration can be found anywhere. I am always looking for new sources of inspiration, both for my work and in life. I have a tendency of going back to certain things that inspire me, and every time I do, I always try to see things differently, see new details and get new perspectives."
The diversity between his illustrations and photography is basically his way of telling a story in his photos. It is also about that fact that there are more people as a part of the process. Meanwhile his illustrative work is always a lonely project. Illustrating is an act he performs as a visual pleasing which is more about the actual process of drawing.
"There are a lot of things I feel I could never communicate through an illustration compared to a photograph and vice versa."
Even though Joakim prefers calmness and order in his artwork, the element of surprise is an important effect he applies to his pictures to keep his audience interested. Whether it’s an unexpected composition, cropping or a facial expression you just can’t seem to make sense of, it triggers ones curiosity.
Evolving his work and exploring new ways of communicating his art is something Joakim is certain of that he wants to keep on doing, too keep things interesting.
"I think that if you are satisfied where you are, regardless of what you do; you’ll eventually stagnate. I think curiosity and the desire to explore new things is the secret to become the best you can be."