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JUNEAU - Patrice Helmar was born among photographs and photographers. Her late father, Paul, was the owner of Juneau Photo Works and Helmar grew up in its darkroom. Helmar is honoring her roots by showing a collection of new photographs at Annie Kaill's this month.
Juneau artist and musician Patrice Helmar returns to her photographic roots in First Friday show 040109 AE 1 CCW Staff Writer JUNEAU - Patrice Helmar was born among photographs and photographers. Her late father, Paul, was the owner of Juneau Photo Works and Helmar grew up in its darkroom. Helmar is honoring her roots by showing a collection of new photographs at Annie Kaill's this month.

Photo by Matthew Adams

Patrice Helmar, pictured, is the artist on display on Annie Kaill's.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Story last updated at 4/1/2009 - 11:06 am

Juneau artist and musician Patrice Helmar returns to her photographic roots in First Friday show

JUNEAU - Patrice Helmar was born among photographs and photographers. Her late father, Paul, was the owner of Juneau Photo Works and Helmar grew up in its darkroom. Helmar is honoring her roots by showing a collection of new photographs at Annie Kaill's this month.

"I just wonder what my dad would say," Helmar said. "When I was a baby he would give us the camera and let us take photos. We were always around his shop, my brother and I, while we were growing up. I'm definitely trying to honor that and get back to that."

Though she said her true love is film photography and hand printing in a darkroom, Helmar's upcoming show is digitally based. In honor of the traditional art of printing from film, she set out to create a series of the most perfect digital prints possible.

"There's an absence in print quality," Helmar said. "I think that's an essential missing link in photography today. People are used to seeing pixels instead of fine grain. It's just a shame."

To get the best prints she could, Helmar chose a printing process in which the final photograph is printed using a photographic chemical process and then sublimated onto aluminum.

Her images capture the beauty of her home state of Alaska as well as travel images from Greece and Turkey.

"I think it's a really important thing as an Alaskan to get an outside experience if you want to be an artist and you want to bring something to the table in the community," Helmar said. "I want to show young men and women growing up in downtown Juneau things that I was amazed at and found beautiful in the world."

Helmar is mainly inspired by documentary and street photography. She was born into photography and said she has never taken a break from shooting photos, that she's never known anything different.

"I constantly miss my dad because he was the driving force," Helmar said.

Her father was a Vietnam vet who, in addition to running his downtown store, ran a small legislative reporting newspaper for which he was also the photographer. He studied, examined and photographed people, drawing on his study in visual anthropology. Helmar said she highly values photos such as his that were explaining cultures and even inciting social change.

She said she is satisfied with and "stoked" on this digital project, but her aspiration is to shoot film again and get her hands back in the chemicals.

"I have dreams about darkrooms," Helmar said. "I'm committed to trying to relearn that form and science, because I'm just not happy otherwise."

Helmar is also a songwriter and will be debuting with her new band, Myth Barber, at Folk Festival this year. She said the style can't be categorized into one genre but is "music for the people." She has written and performed songs since she was very young and said she is excited to still be playing.

Helmar said she is very grateful to the artistic community in Juneau for being supportive in her efforts for this show.

"(Juneau's artists) could be anywhere else in the world doing this, but we love Alaska," she said. "We love our community, and art is a way of inspiring others to do the same thing."


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