Hilde Van Mas: Finding Herself in Photography

 found Hilde Van Mas on Instagram and was immediately mesmerized by her work. Her photos are very raw and honest but that’s what’s also makes them powerful, this openness to take a look into someone’s soul for a moment.

For the following I have asked Hilde if she want’s to do an interview with me: 

Luna Maluna Gri: Tell me a bit about yourself and your work.

Hilde Van Mas: I’m a photographer, live in Vienna and Paris, so I balance around in Europe and I work also a lot in Berlin because I shoot actors. I was born in Italy, and yeah that’s basically the answer about my work. I’m mainly a fashion photographer actually, not so much art but the strange thing is that I think of myself being more a fashion photographer than art but the rest of the universe outside thinks I’m more of an art photographer, I would never dare to call myself an art photographer because I have too much respect on art.

Hilde Van Mas

LMG: How and why did you start photography?

HVM: I was a creative director for a magazine when I was really young, at the beginning of my twenties, and I had the chance to, actually it was more of a coincidence because a photographer I worked with, his assistant became very sick, and had to go to the hospital for a few months and he asked me if I can help him out being his assistant and I told him: “I’m really sorry, I might have a good feeling for the creative side but I have no technical idea at all. So anything I can do is just being a “monkey” and maybe support you mentally, give you good energies, but can’t help you really much on techniques.” And this guy helped me out and said: “Don’t worry, you gonna make it, it’s easy”, it’s not that easy actually because there is a huge technical side about photography, so that is why you definitely need as a good base for taking good pictures. You can’t be a good photographer, I think if you have no idea at all about technique. I mean, I know photographers who have a really weak side on technique and they still take really good pictures, but in the end, when it comes to really hard jobs, you have to be very stable in your technique. You don’t have a second to think about how you can change or solve the situation, you can’t be flexible, you are not really elastic if you don’t know how to use light and the camera. And this guy helped me really a lot and as a present, after these months he gave me his old Nikon camera and I had to promise him that I will be a photographer. So it’s really funny, I started just for fun testing, doing model shoots, like Polaroids. And since I was really motivated I always tried to do one more shot with nice light and maybe a blouse I had or something. And I was lucky because a magazine saw this motivated Polaroid I did and they booked me. So my first booking was more or less a coincidence. And that’s how I became a photographer. At this time I didn’t even have a camera and I didn’t have the money to buy a camera, so I sold everything I had, really everything and I had to quit my apartment because it was too expensive. So I moved to a very cheap apartment and it was like in the movies, I slept on a mattress on the floor, and since I sold everything I had, I just kept important things like clothing and little things that belonged to me. Yeah, that’s how I started. A little bit like Cinderella sounds a bit stupid but it’s like that. And I basically decided to be a photographer because that’s the only thing I can really live from in a very honest way because it comes from my heart.

LMG: What role does photography play for you?

HVM: That’s really easy to answer. Photography is my lung. And I think I would never stop doing that, except if I can’t live from it, but I would still be a photographer for myself. Because any picture I take I don’t take for anyone than for the situation and myself. It’s a very important part. It’s not a hobby, it’s not a job, it’s myself. 

Hilde Van Mas

LMG: What is your experience with the art world?

HVM: That’s a really difficult question. I have many, many friends in the art world, who are basically like family. I don’t know many photographers, unfortunately, but I know many painters, many film directors, many musicians,…. I don’t know what to answer on that question. If that’d be art photography I won’t be able to say much ‘cause I don’t come so much from the art world, I come more or less from the fashion and beauty world and also from portrait photography because I do shoot a lot of artists and the funny thing is, it’s a developing process now, which I didn’t push myself into, but funny enough I will be featured in a gallery now soon and also I gave interviews for art magazines, don’t ask me why, because I myself would never call me an art photographer, I’m just a very “normal” photographer, like the rest of the world, and I didn’t see myself so much in the art world but it would be great to step into that since it is a very genuine process that is happening to me now without pushing it, I’m really happy to now be kind of stepping into this world. But I have not much experience, I can’t really tell you much about that, unfortunately. 

LMG: Is there something you want to change about the art world? If yes, what and why?

HVM: Yes, there are maybe things that could be and should be changed to make life easier and I think the art world is not much different than the fashion world. And of course, you know, the question of someone being seen in this kind of world is a very important point. So if you are a very introverted person, you don’t run around, you don’t connect with really important people, usually, it takes longer until you are more successful and I wish that this wouldn’t be such an important point. You know, to know the right people, and to be at the right places with the right people, to be recognised as a photographer or as an artist. But I think this is something which will never change, so that’s an illusionary dream. Because I think the art itself and the photography itself should speak and not the person who is doing it. That’s why I really don’t like to post pictures of myself. I would never post a portrait of myself, like this classical portrait. If I would I would never show my face because I think it’s not important who I am and how I look like. Because the most intimate thing you can show as an artist or as a photographer is your art and your pictures, and that’s you, that’s the mirror of yourself. 

LMG: What do you think is/are the role/-s of artists in our society?

HVM: Especially at this moment where we have this big pandemic, which is now slowly but surely getting a burden, because, you know, as an artist, you do suffer from this situation now. I think it’s also to recognize this situation as a chance to use your role as an artist or as a photographer and create things and take pictures which might reflect the situation now and maybe also, what I try actually, I have a very different style now which is developing, through this period now because of this pandemic, because it is a huge, huge weight I think on everybody’s soul and I think as an artist you might be a little bit easier to move, especially in this situation. I try to shoot visions that take you out of this situation which you are in, which you are basically captured at the moment because you can’t run away from this pandemic, you have no choice, it’s very non-elastic. So I think the role of an artist and art in our society is to inspire. To create visions and to inspire. 

Hilde Van Mas

LMG: What does your creating process look like?

HVM: Depending on the job. Depends on what the shooting is about. If it is a personal project it’s totally different from a booking for a magazine, a campaign, for a client, etc. That’s totally different. 

So it really depends on what I’m creating. 

LMG: What inspires you?

HVM: That I can answer you. Actually, if I shoot people, I always fall in love with what I have in front of my camera, so the biggest inspiration is what I see. Anything which I can see is a big inspiration. Maybe also because I’m half deaf. I’m deaf on the right ear since I’m very young because my ear was infected many times and the result was that I hear like 50% now from what a normal person would hear. I also see things differently. Maybe that’s the reason why I can feel a certain energy in a different way than maybe other people do it. Probably more intense because I have to rely more on my eyes than on what I hear. So the biggest inspiration is anything I can see. But, funny enough, even though I really hear bad, music. I think music is one of the most important things in my life as well. I even create playlists for shootings, to have a certain mood or a certain feeling and to transport people in a certain world during a shooting. And also cinema. So I would say anything I can see, anything I can hear and music and I’m actually a really huge fan of art cinema. I really love seeing movies, that’s the biggest inspiration. Especially there is some kind of film directors like there is a Greek one, his name is Giorgos Lanthimos, he did ‘The Favourite’, ‘The Lobster’, ‘The Killing of a sacred deer is also one of his movies, and he uses really interesting lenses when he shoots his films and really crazy perspectives combined with really strange Schubert music, like a really crazy combination of sound and vision and lenses and wide angles. I have never seen anything like that before. Also, the stories of the movies are really absurd, so I love this absurdity. So yeah, I would say the film is also a very, very big theme and inspires me a lot. The least inspiration is actually photography itself. Because I think you can’t invent new stars and pictures, not everybody is Einstein you know, but I think the most boring thing is to copy what you see already and what the market wants from you. So I would never try to copy someone’s star because that would be the most stupid thing to be inspired by. 

LMG: What artist/-s would you like to meet (dead or alive) and if you had one question what would you ask them?

HVM: Definitely Marina Abramovic. For me she is like god. Wow there’s tons of people. Romy Schneider as well. I could give you a list now because I also read a lot of biographies. Jean Paul Satre. I would love to see him. Rodin, you know all these artists, I would love to see these guys. And just ask one single question ? Geez, depending on who. Tons of things I would ask, tons of things. Of course it would be nice to meet a photographer as well but I think, mhm….. Marina Abramovic, and she is still alive. That means I have a chance to meet her ! 

I wouldn’t ask that much actually, I would let them talk. Because I would love to hear what they say from themselves. 

Hilde Van Mas

LMG: What does a normal creating day look like for you?

HVM: Depending on what I’m doing, which shooting I’m working on. I also do a lot of location scouting and I do a lot of analog photography. So that these take a lot of time to work on the pictures and develop them. I go for a walk with my dog. Depends on what I’m concentrating on. And usually before shooting myself a lot to get into an energetic mood, which I will need for the next day. 

I also do retouch. That doesn’t need much time but I’m very slow in choosing pictures because I’m very unhappy most of the time with the results so it’s very difficult for me to choose pictures.

LMG: Is there something you want to achieve in your art life? Dreams? Future plans? Or projects you would like to do?

HVM: I would like to shift my photography more to the art world more than into the fashion world. It’s not that I don’t like fashion, but I think it’s more interesting and it comes more natural to me to shoot in an artful way, so it’s easier for me and more honest. So that would be a future plan, which I’m working on with many projects at the same time. And I would like to have a house in Italy, which is a huge dream because that just depends on how much money I will make (laughs) and have a fixed apartment in Paris. Because I always have to rent apartments when I’m there and I will go to Paris now in May for almost six weeks. It’s always kind of a pain if you have to sleep in different apartments all your life. Now during the pandemic, it’s better but before I was traveling like every second week anywhere, somewhere, sleeping somewhere, anywhere, so very unglamorous and I would love to have that much money so that I can afford a tiny place, a tiny home where I can go to. You know, back home when I’m in Paris. That would be also a very big dream. But that’s again a thing about how much money you make.

LMG: Do you think there is something you can bring to this world through your work as an artist which you couldn’t in any other field of work?

HVM: Yes I think so. I think you can inspire people. I think you can shock people. I think you can make people dream. I think it’s all about creating a vision and creating a feeling in someones soul and heart. And that’s a very beautiful thing. I mean, we don’t save people’s lives you know, so I’m the most happy person if I touch someone. If I can move or touch someone’s heart and soul, I feel very honored. And I think this is something really important you can do through art and photography. 

Follow Hilde Van Mas on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/hildevanmas/?hl=en

Hilde Van Mas Official Website – https://www.hildevanmas.com/

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