ERIC HELGAS HAS LONG BEEN A FAN of reality television, but he’s
less fascinated with the lifestyles or the characters it presents than
the facade itself. “I feel like I have a critical eye and I’m interested in
looking beyond the constructed images of media and fashion,” he says.
Many of his conceptual still lifes and portraits are influenced by
manufactured TV realities, and using bright light often helps him
execute his vision. “It adds an artificial element. The idea of a set
becomes way more apparent when there’s a blatant use of light,” he
says. “I think the use of flash adds a performative quality to the work.”
Helgas began working in photography as a studio manager
and assistant for Ryan Pfluger in New York. During that year,
Helgas started marketing himself beyond social media by sending
postcards to about 15 photo editors. “I was reaching out to people
I thought I could actually make pictures for,” he says.
About a week later, a Bloomberg Businessweek editor called
him to do a shoot that night for a story about what was then called
the Apple i Watch. He shot an iPhone taped to a friend’s wrist.
He left Pfluger’s studio a few months later, and began emailing
editors to request meetings. That effort led to work from The New
Yorker, and other clients followed.
“Eric’s photographic style is unique because of the way he’s able
to reimagine the familiar into something that feels slightly offbeat,
unexpected and, therefore, striking and new,” says Siobhán
Bohnacker, senior photo editor at The New Yorker.
Bohnacker sees Helgas as a “grade-A troubleshooter” who
understands that images have to fit the esthetic style of her
magazine. Bohnacker says, “He’ll push the subjects, the publicists,
whoever it might be, to give him a little something extra.”
New York City
Maryland Institute College of Art
Bloomberg Businessweek, Esquire,
Fast Company, The New York Times Magazine,
The New Yorker, Opening Ceremony, WWD
American Photography 30
“Being nice and easy to work with is really important.
If [clients] have the opportunity to hire one of two photographers, and one’s
difficult to work with, they’re going to choose the other photographer.”