Like the early daylight that enters a room in stillness, the photographs of Julia Hetta seeps gently into our consciousness and entices us with whispers of reassuring, elegant power. Classical in manner and poised with flawless technique, her pictures seem to have traveled fervently through several centuries before reaching a cool and contemporary destination. Here, their translucent appearance could seem almost otherworldly if they hadn’t been bejeweled with Hetta’s warm and familiar depth.
Julia Hetta is a photographer of the digital age but unlike many of her peers that have a new-found interest in shooting on film today, she has a long and passionate history with the old craft of picture making, exposed to photography since childhood through her father who had a darkroom in their basement in Uppsala. The three years she spent studying photography at the Gerrit Rietveld Art Academy in Amsterdam involved infinite hours of solitary dedication in the darkroom. It was a period she remembers as lonely and peculiar, finding solace in the Rijksmuseum where the faces portrayed in the master paintings became real, like flesh and blood in front of her peering eyes.
Indeed, when looking at Hetta’s pictures, ones mind travels back to early Netherlandish painting, particularly to those of Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden whose innovative use of oil enhanced the emotional realism in portraiture by new descriptive techniques. The sense of meditation and inner life seen in these 15th century paintings can also be seen in Julia’s photo graphs. Like her predecessors she is intensely interested in the effects of daylight; her timeless figures emerging gracefully from unadorned settings of simple, often obscured backgrounds. The sophisticated combinations of the objects and rich textures of her still-life are skillfully
described and there is aquiet, graceful reflectiveness to her motifs.
Too shy to become a photographer’s assistant when she was younger, Hetta worked for several years in a photography archive in Stockholm where she educated her eye by absorbing a wide range of genres, from fine art to photojournalism. Nina Korhonen, Anders Petersen and Christer Stromholm all made strong impressions. That there are many layers to her photographic wisdom is apparent in her fashion work where she often collaborates with her younger brother Hannes — her most important artistic ally. Together they make images that are unmistakably different and completely their own, blurring the line between fashion and art. To be timeless is not only rare in fashion, it disobeys its very nature. It is therefor interesting to see how well the latest looks seem to thrive and love being in Hetta’s pictures. In a world where things come as quickly as they go, the Hetta’s are two unusual rebels, creating beauty that will stand the test of time. Working together for many of the most prestigious fashion publications of our times, their pictures are admired, discussed, desired, celebrated, sometimes copied but always with the greatest sense of respect.
I think Julia Hetta would agree with Sven Nykvist, the Swedish cinematographer who created Ingmar Bergman’s moving images, when he said that the studio has too many possibilities, “too many lights to destroy the whole picture.” Like Nykvist’s low-tech methods of illuminating actors psychological state to dramatic effect, Hetta is simplifying lighting techniques in order to achieve images of spectacular emotional quality. If someone gives her a vast studio with an array of assistants and high-tech lighting equipment, she would probably set up her camera in a corner near a window. As a fully formed photographer since the day she launched her career, she knows exactly what it takes to create one of her images. And as one of the leading image makers of her generation, she is changing the face of photography. Natural and confident, with laughter always near, there are no airs or fuss about her, and to pretend or falsify does not exist in her world. Like Nykvist and Bergman, and the northern masters before them, there is a seriousness to both her approach and her pictures — an earnest story that seeks only the beauty of truth.
— Thomas Persson
London, March 2016.