Meet the team: Nora Hollstein
Having discovered her work in an Urban Outfitters zine, we see how the Berlin based photographer is finding art school
Despite spending much of my time staring at the very same screen that I am doing as I write this, Nora was one of the contributors that I discovered offline.
Funnily enough it was during a particularly frustrating day of scouring the net for photographers that I stumbled across her work, during an hour or so intended to momentarily clear my head. I’d walked in to town to replace my trusty pair of jeans, now irreparably torn from crotch to inner thigh, when I saw a newsprint zine at the till. To their credit, Urban Outfitters have recently displayed an above average engagement with the local creative industries and the SHEET zine was a nice extension of that ethos. Featuring a selection of their staff from around Europe who were engaged in creative pursuits when not working in store, the work of one photographer instantly grabbed my attention.
I couldn’t believe my luck and swiftly scurried home, forgetting (of course) to buy the damn jeans, determined now to get hold of Ms. Hollstein. While there was only a few images on her Tumblr site, one model was featured on numerous occasions. That model, Marie, and Nora’s friendship with her went on to become the basis of the feature and as I caught up with the latter over the weekend, that was where we picked things up.
In Issue One we looked at your photographs of, and relationship with, you best friend Marie. Is she still your muse? Do you photograph her as much as before?
Yes, Marie is still one of my closest and dearest friends. I’m happy that we live together; it means I see her every day, and sure, she’s still my muse. Living with such a beautiful girl has a lot of benefits if you’re a photographer. If the sun is shining into the flat and gives the perfect light I can just call her. If I have a new idea for pictures she always helps, inspires and motivates me.
I was delighted to hear that you got in to your first choice university, Berlin University of the Arts. How are you finding that?
Well, the food in our cafeteria is marvellous! Sometimes I even get energy drinks for free, which as I admitted in Issue One are one of my fiercest addictions.
Okay, just kidding.
It’s beyond words! I was really overwhelmed when I got the news and, after my first semester I still feel like it was the right choice. Getting the opportunity to try everything and learn what you always wanted to learn but couldn’t do by yourself is really getting me going. It’s also really good to get feedback and meet people with the same passions. I’m learning to work more conceptually, I finally get to develop photos myself and I’m drawing again, which I haven’t done for a long time.
I can just spend my whole week doing what I love, and that’s made me happier than I’ve been in a long time. Sure, some tasks are challenging but it is important to gain more knowledge about everything possible and try as many things as you can before you specialize in a particular direction.
Are your studies making much of a difference in the way you approach photography?
It actually does in a subtle way. Learning how to develop them is one thing and it’s great fun. I’ve learned a lot more about my camera, how to use it and about the different adjustments.
Mostly though, engaging with creative stuff changed my way of taking pictures. I feel like I’m getting used to developing my style. I’ve started to find more interesting motives, beautiful colours in daily life which was exciting in comparison to constructing a scenario, so that you can shoot it.
Do you still shoot predominantly on film?
I do more than ever, I’ve almost stopped using my digital camera. For me, the charm of an analogue picture is something unique. Thinking about every photo you take instead of taking a lot and then picking “the best one” makes it more special. And it’s the best feeling to go get your developed pictures. I’m always so curious before I get them.
It was also great to see that you were commissioned for a record sleeve, how was that experience?
It was good, but not as exciting as it sounds at first. It was for a store opening and the company wanted to give away a free sampler from this artist. They chose my photo, which was pretty cool. Still it was an unpaid thing and I didn’t get to work with the artist with it being an existing image. It was quite nice when I got the record and saw the printed thing and I hope that it will lead to a paid commission one day.
Have you been doing any unpaid photography or assisting work recently?
So there was the record thing and I did some stuff for a band I’m friends with, but besides that, with university and my part time job it’s really hard to get into other projects.
What are you working on at the moment?
Besides some new things I’m trying, like illustration and collage, right now I’m working on some small projects just for myself. I’m trying to finish two little sheets I started to do during the holidays. One is about city in general and one is about home. Both filled with analogue pictures I took in the last few weeks and some old ones, too. I think I concentrated most on the one about home, because I like that it just feels so personal, cosy and inviting to look at.
Also, I just discovered the photographer William Eggleston. The pictures he took fascinate me in a certain way. I’m trying to get the feeling that I had looking at his pictures into my new photos. It’s pretty difficult because nowadays you don’t find the same kind of colours in your environment. You don’t come across abandoned turquoise gas stations with a dusty Cadillac in the garage, or sleep in a motel room with velvet curtains. But, to keep myself going I’m planning to treat myself with a Polaroid camera tomorrow. Other than that, I want to put together a new website, so I hope I can get moving on that soon.
Portrait of Nora by none other than Ms. Marie-Louise Häfner.
With Nora enjoying every day of university at the moment, it’s a perfect time to keep an eye on how her craft develops. While her new site is yet to get under way, getting lost in her tumblr is a great way to spend five minutes.