After my degree in cultural anthropology at the University of Leiden (1998) I worked for international development organizations and local government for many years. I have never felt at home at any of these places. I always felt I was in the wrong place doing the wrong thing. I suffered from depression and had several burn-outs. At one point I couldn’t go to work anymore. It took me a couple of years to recover. In this process I decided that I wanted to do something completely different with my life.
After having attended a photography workshop, I signed up for a vocational training in Photograpy at the School for Photography in Utrecht (2018). I found out that I really loved photography and that I was good at it. One of my first assignments was to make a photo diary. At that time I wasn’t feeling well and I was afraid to go out, so I decided to portray myself and my depression. When I showed my work to my teacher and fellow students, I saw something happening to them. They were touched. One person even started crying because her father had suffered from depression and had committed suicide as a result. At that point I knew that I had found my new life goal.
It has been three years now since I got serious with photograpy. My work mainly consists of portraiture and documentary photography. People and their social context are the main topic of my photographic work. I work both in colour and black and white, depending on what suits the subject best. I love to make socially engaged work, as I want my work to mean something. But no matter what my subject is, I find myself always making intimate portraits. I guess that is my greatest strength.
Untill now I have been pretty successful in my new carreer. My series Locked Down, consisting of intimate portraits of people in lockdown, has been acquired by Museum de Lakenhal and is in the process of being published in the book Locked Down. Last year I was chosen to be Stadsfotograaf of Leiden for the year 2020/2021. This entailed work on a project called Thuis that was published in the Leidsch Dagblad newspaper. The series has now been published in the book Thuis and is at display at De Buurt until the 5th of October.The series Locked Down is at display at Museum de Lakenhal until the 26th of September. Publications are available through my webstore.
Locked Down, Museum de Lakenhal (Oude Singel 32, Leiden), until September 26
Thuis, De Buurt (Pesthuislaan 7, Leiden), until October 5
Locked Down, hardcover, € 59,95, available through www.leonievanderhelm.nl
Thuis, softcover, € 18,50, available through www.leonievanderhelm.nl
Leonie van der Helm
After a vocational degree in photography at the School for Photography in Utrecht (2018) I changed career to focus on photography. My work mainly consists of portraiture and documentary photography.