Berlin-based freelance photographer Helin Bereket steps in front of the camera for Relativity: Matching with La Muralla Roja, an experimental new series which sees her interact with postmodern Mediterranean architecture.
Described by Helin as a "photographic experiment", Relativity: Matching with La Muralla Roja blurs the boundaries between photography, staging and performance. Captured in the stunning buildings of the Red Wall - a vibrant, Brutalist apartment complex located on Spain's eastern coast built by the late Catalan architect Ricardo Bofill Levi – the images see Helin adapt to the striking and formidable concrete shapes with her body.
Unsurprisingly, the buildings themselves provided the initial inspiration for the series. Jutting out of the coast in dramatic contrast to the surrounding blues of the sea and sky, the residential complex of La Muralla Roja boasts monumental geometry, which is influenced by Greek cross typology elements and the kasbah walls lifted from Arab Mediterranean tradition.
"I had seen so many photos of this building, and I was captivated by its uniqueness," Helin tells Creative Boom. "I thought about how I could create a signature series without obscuring the beauty of the building."
Due to their location, work on the series involved travelling 1,000km. However, all that effort paid off as the stunning results see Helin respond to the fuchsia facades with the poise and grace of a dancer as much as a photographer. The images also build upon Helin's previous series based in Sicily, where she spontaneously decided to respond to the buildings there with her body.
"Taking self-portraits has been a part of my life since the first lockdown in 2020," she explains. "And I've been combining self-portraits with unique examples of spaces for a while now." And ever since she has discovered the freedom and satisfaction that self-portraits bring, Helin has found that she can't stop taking them.
"I think there is always a little bit of performance in my self-portraits," she adds. "Sometimes I'm more dominant in the photos, sometimes my surroundings lead the composition, and I try to adapt. With this example, I solely tried to get the shape of the architecture. Ultimately, it's important for me to create something harmonious, with or without a deeper meaning."
Part of Helin's motivation to step in front of the camera was born out of necessity. As lockdown restrictions tightened around everyone's lives in 2020, Helin was unable to travel and socialise as much and found herself stuck at home. This led to her photographing everything around her, which eventually came to include herself.
"For me, self-portraits are much more than 'showing yourself'," she adds. "As a photographer and model, you have 100 per cent control over the result. The outcome is never 'a bit different than expected' as you plan and implement everything.
"Personally, I also find it much more comfortable to be in front of my own camera than in front of someone else's. Without having to explain anything to anyone, I can implement spontaneous ideas with self-portraits very quickly. It's like a special way of working with yourself."
This autonomy doesn't mean that the shoot for this project was easy, though. Helin is keen to point out that self-portraits are technically demanding and tiring, especially where careful composition is involved, and the whole body is used to create a shot.
"You have to set up the composition, connect the camera with your phone, place yourself into the photo, adjust the camera settings, take position, push the button, then stay in the position for a while," she explains. "This series, for example, was one of the most difficult as I had to fit my body parts perfectly into the composition. Lying on the ground with one hand and one leg in the air while capturing the moment isn't as easy as it looks!"
However, this hard work is just part of Helin's creative process. She claims that her whole journey as a photographer is based on the idea of experimenting and learning by doing. "My style is in constant evolution," she concludes. "I mostly use simple and minimalist compositions, geometric shapes, colours and contrasts.
"These elements often appear separately or together in my works. But I don't restrict myself to a certain style or topic. I don't know how things will look next year." Just like her body wrapping around the buildings of La Muralla Roja, Helin's photography is an expression that adapts itself to her life.