As part of its annual celebration of seven accomplished female photographers, camera manufacturer Hasselblad recently unveiled its Hasselblad Heroines of 2021. Though the women have a wide range of specialties, from self-portraiture to nature photography, they all create incredible photographs — some skillfully capturing the sublime awe of nature or powerful individuals, others toying with conventional notions of self-portraiture.
The first of the Hasselblad Heroines, Flora Borsi, creates incredibly surrealist self-portraits with the help of digital manipulation, each work centering around themes of identity. Nothing is outside of the realm of possibility – in one image, Borsi’s face may converge with birds; in another, her tongue becomes a slug. Although these images may not be exact photographic representations of Borsi, they allow for metaphor within the portrait, pushing the very limits of what can be considered faithful self-representation in photography.
With an interest in classical art, Katerina Belkina also frequently utilizes digital manipulation, though she opts to give her photographs the appearance of being painted. The resulting images have a soft glow, as though depicting fantastical, otherworldly scenes. Yet, despite this element, many of Belkina’s works are incredibly relatable. Her series “Zweiraumwohnung”, named after the German word for a two-bedroom apartment, examines a quintessential experience of urban residents: eating, working, exercising, relaxing, and sleeping all within their unit, their lives relatively confined to the four walls. Particularly resonant due to the pandemic, the series demonstrates Belkina’s skill in combining mundane reality with ethereal beauty.
Specializing in portrait and documentary photography, Jillian Edelstein has a knack for imbuing her images with emotion and personality. Originally a press photographer, Edelstein has gone on to tackle numerous heavy topics with her camera, including the fallout of South Africa’s apertheid period, the European refugee crisis, and the stigma around men’s mental health. Her portraits (which feature subjects such as Nelson Mandela, Giorgio Armani, Gillian Anderson, and Richard E. Grant) exude subjects’ wisdom and determination, truly giving viewers a sense of the person within the frame.
A creative usage of self-portraiture, Anja Niemi photographs herself in various tableaus. The images tell short stories – of unseen women, boxers, friends – yet are somewhat ambiguous, allowing viewers to fill in the blanks, each experiencing a different tale. In her photographs, Niemi takes on fictional personas and obstructs her face, challenging conventional notions of self-portraiture while raising interesting questions about the subject of her tableaus: Do the photographs truly depict Niemi if she is playing a character? How can one differentiate between character versus an individual’s self-filter? How much of the character can be considered Niemi (either due to appearance or authorship)? Yet despite exploring these complex questions, the photographs are light and engaging, a masterful balance between entertaining and critical.
The only landscape photographer of Hasselblad’s 2021 list, Isabella Tabacchi captures sublime images that truly inspire awe and reverence for nature. Specializing in depictions of mountains and distinctive rock formations, Tabacchi often forgoes more common spots in favour of striking, unique subjects. Because the locales are unconventional, viewers are more likely to be taken off guard and stop to admire them, hypnotized by the labyrinth of rocks or the intricate folds of the snow on the mountaintops.
A dreamy street photographer, Nina Welch-Kling captures the quaint quirks of New York City. Many of her works focus on everyday patterns, bringing viewers’ attention to the grids of skyscrapers or subway seats that they might otherwise overlook. Welch-Kling also highlights the unusual and dreamlike of the everyday – the clouds of smoke billowing from the street grate, mingling with the fog; the unassuming allure of the balloon that floats above the office towers. Though she captures still photographs, Welch-Kling truly brings New York to life.
The last Heroine on Hasselblad’s list, Andrea Zvadova’s beauty photographs are unapologetically bright and bold. Colored lights bounce off skin, resulting in ethereal sheens; unfocused lenses and clouds of mist heighten the allure of models, both grungy and glamorous. Though her beauty portfolio bursts with color, Zvadova has also created many relatively subdued series, from black and white photographs of steel gas towers to images of tile and brick that highlight the repetition in everyday surfaces. Zvadova’s dynamic range is a testament to her skill, ultimately allowing for a wide degree of experimentation.