In my photography I try to scratch at the surface on the walls of human manners, try to get a sneak behind the masks of the Über-Ich, we all have to wear in our daily lives. The people I work with, have to accomplish psychological tasks I set. It’s always a performance, never a pose, both exhausting and fulfilling for both sides. And also very intense and close…
I use filters I invented, so I can create the fog and clouds “live” during the shooting; there are no digital effects. By applying them, I’m able to decide what is clear to see and what isn’t. To coin a phrase, I use the invisible to amplify the visible.
And sometimes I allow myself simply to show the outrageous beauty of those human beings.
Elena Helfrecht was born in Germany 1992.
Since early childhood she has developed a passion for art, which began with drawing and ended in photography.
Elena learned to draw at the school of Zoula Fürst for two years. As a photographer she is completely
self-educated. Her influences are several artists she adores very much, for example
David Lynch, Gottfried Helnwein, Floria Sigismondi or
Gregory Crewdson to name a few.
With her art she expresses inner worlds and spiritual abysses.
She doesn’t set value of anyone following her intentions as her only goal is to evoke emotions
and thoughts in the beholder. The individual interpretation is irrelevant. Different perspectives is what
fascinated her most about art.
Currently Elena studies History of Arts and Book Sciences in Germany.
She dreams of being a curator and helping other great artists to reach out.
Approaching Buhomba repatriate camp across the plain, its corrugated aluminium roofs shimmer as if a mirage. Waves of heat beat up off the earth, suspending children’s kites fashioned from string and straw and plastic bags that twist and glimmer. Sideways, paper-thin, the kites are invisible, secured by an unperceivable thread to the dust below. The tin roofs of the houses are tied down to boulders with bicycle chains. In a wasteland once the stronghold of rebels, these shacks are hidden from the rest of Burundi. In the world’s third poorest country, they are invisible to the rest of the world. Those who live in Buhomba hide from the sun in uniform grey mud houses. From the road, there is no one here.
The camp is home to 450 returned refugees who fled Burundi and the Hutu-Tutsi massacres of 1972 and 1993 and are now returned from Rwanda, Tanzania, Congo and Sudan, bringing children born abroad and memories of their families who died in this country. Having left Burundi so long ago, many no longer remember where their family was from; with no home to return to, they are herded into government-built camps. “At least in the refugee camps we had food,” says Alina, born in Congo to refugee parents. “Here, the government give each person 25kg of maize or peas, and that must last six months. We eat once a day, or sometimes go without. When once they forgot to send food, we marched on foot to the Ministry to demand it.” Without money to pay for books and uniforms, Alina’s children join her working in the fields of others rather than going to school. A day’s work can earn 500 Burundian francs (27 centimes), enough for a handful of tiny dried fish.
Tanzania’s forced closing of its refugee camps has pushed thousands of Burundians across the border to their homeland, to days spent in sun-beaten lines outside administrative offices seeking help to build homes. The roads are lined with bricks hewn out of the red earth; with no seeds to plant, people sell their land thirty centimetres at a time. Yet few can afford these luxuries, with many of the 700,000 new arrivals living in makeshift shacks of straw and ubiquitous UNICEF tarpaulins. Those in barren Buhomba, though their children gnaw leaves for sustenance, are the lucky ones.
Though the camp is surrounded by empty land, its inhabitants are forbidden from sowing the cassava or sweet potato that they tend in other people’s fields. Elizabeth looks out of the doorway of the house she shares with her eight children, her eyes following the straight line of houses to the wide and dust-covered plain that surrounds them. Hungrily, she watches its straws rustle. “To grow, that would be another life. The morning I have my own land, that will be another world.”
Text by Laura Gabrielle Dix