Roland Barthes wrote that “in order to see a photograph well, it is best to look away or close your eyes.” Photographer Helen Nishi understands this inherently—photography records a moment more fully than our eyes alone can interpret. Some people are attuned to the physical world in such a heightened way that colors, landscapes, music, and the other sensorial details of life guide their impulses and experiences. Helen brings this intuition into her work, and the rich colors, emotions, and textures she captures animate each image.


Helen extends this curious gaze toward each of her subjects, and the result is a portfolio of images steeped in culture and community. Even her more austere portraits of landscapes or individual women continually portray their essential strength. It is no surprise, then, that Helen tells us she navigates life and motherhood vivaciously and by instinct, or that seeing new places always leaves her perspective profoundly altered and hungry for a change.


Helen wears the Kate Jeans in Black, and the Elbow Tee in Natural 





Can you tell us about your journey with photography?

What really inspired me was this box of photos my parents have at their house, with tons of film photo gems of their time dating during the '40s.

I really love film photography and film cameras. I remember when digital photography started to get popular — I was never into it. I would hate how easy it was to take a photo on a digital camera, how "perfectly digital" it looked. It felt soulless. There was no waiting for the film to develop and no mystery or ritual.

I had my dad's Voigtlander film camera from the '60s, and I brought an old Mamyia SLR camera made in the late '70s at a garage sale for $8.00 and started shooting. As with my photography, capturing what is already here has been fairly easy, extremely fun and has become a passion.

What do you think a photography can best capture? What does a photograph leave out?

A photograph can freeze time, isn't that incredible? Colors, the depth of black and white, shapes, romance, patterns, essence, love, pleasure, violence, beauty, mystery — I can go on and on. A photograph captures all. It leaves nothing out.

What's a book you have come back to repeatedly?

As a kid, I was interested in understanding the stories in books, but reading itself was hard for me. Words blurred into each other, I couldn't focus, and I’d lose interest. Audiobooks have helped me with this.

But visually, that was a different story. Anything visual is so stimulating for me. Photo books and art books are definitely my thing. I go back to all of them over the years. What our eyes see, our hearts can feel and our brain can create and wonder.

Have you ever returned from a trip feeling as though your perspective shifted?

Every time I return from a trip, I feel a tremendous shift of perspective. It's hard not to compare new places and experiences with the existing reality of "home". Travel is where my deepest knowledge comes from and truly my happiest moments. This constant shift of perspective sparks creativity and allows me to dream about how life could be somewhere else. It also brings me joy, gratitude, and certainty about the place I presently live, or it pushes me to pick up and move someplace else.






                                                            Helen wears the Kate Jeans in Black, and the Elbow Tee in Natural 




Helen wears the Marta Dress in Olive, and Sisterhood Bandana







What is something spontaneous you would do if risk or consequences were not being considered?

Surf huge waves, Nazaré or Pipeline.

What parts of motherhood have felt the most instinctual? Which parts caught you off guard?

All of motherhood has been very instinctual. This feeling started when I realized I was pregnant. Everything you feel while growing a human informs your behaviors while pregnant. 

There's so much information our there that I purposely avoided. I also avoided trying to read about or listen to other people's experiences with pregnancy and motherhood so I could allow my senses to guide me.



See Helen's photography on her site here, and follow her on Instagram here. Photos by Alexa Miller.






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