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28 October 2014

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Model exposure
Helena Christensen
Her name is synonymous with fashion but after 17 years on the runway, Helen Christensen believes she has found her vocation as a photographer.
spacer She was one of the first supermodels, but these days Helena Christensen prefers life behind the camera. As her first solo show opens in London, we talk to the Danish model and look at some of her work...


video VIDEO: Entertainment correspondent Brenda Emmanus talks to Helena Christensen and gallery owner Alex Proud

BBC London's Brenda Emmanus

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Born on Christmas Day in 1968 to a Danish father and Peruvian mother, Helena grew up in Denmark

In 1986 she was selected as Miss Denmark and competed in the Miss Universe pageant

Following this, Helena left her home for Paris and began pursuing a modelling career

She has been a fashion icon for nearly two decades, working for designers such as the late Gianni Versace, Karl Lagerfeld and John Galliano

Her passion for photography began when she was just 17. While hitch-hiking around the world, her camera became indispensable


Proud Galleries
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The old rumour about supermodels not getting out of bed for less than a few thousand pounds gets short shrift from Helena Christensen.

For these days the fashion veteran would happily swap the catwalk for a roll of camera film.

In the past few years she's steadily made the transition from model to photographer, working on a range of prestigious, glossy magazines.

Now the 35-year-old has her first solo exhibition People and Portraits, which has opened at London's Proud Central Gallery.

Photo by Helena Christensen
This photo and others on this page are from Helena Christensen's personal archive

"I've looked at these photos for the last 15 years," she told BBC London's entertainment correspondent Brenda Emmanus.

"But seeing them framed and hanging on such a large scale, it's a whole different feeling."

public scrutiny

The exhibition includes commissioned portraits of celebrities such as Bono, Michael Stipe and Marianne Faithfull plus work from her personal archive.

Photo by Helena Christensen

What does she feel about opening her pictures to public scrutiny? "They were never meant to be shown, they were just personal projects I'd be doing for myself," she said.

"If someone has any negative criticism, it's bound to have an effect on me. At the same time, I wouldn't hang it up unless I was quite happy with it and it meant something to me."

'hauntingly beautiful'

The gallery owner, Alex Proud, dismissed suggestions that he had been swayed by the photographer's celebrity status.

"I think we were nervous about Helena being so famous, and we asked ourselves if the work would be good enough," he told BBC London.

Photo by Helena Christensen

"She's a fantastic photographer and her work is hauntingly beautiful and ethereal. I'm over the moon about it and I think it's one of the best shows we've ever put on."

Helena ChristensenChristensen began modelling in Paris at the age of 18 and fast became a fashion icon. Working with some of the world's most in-demand photographers has certainly benefited her second career.

"I'm so lucky," she confessed, "What better education can you have for photography?"

"I never learned technically, I never studied it. I don't think I could be any luckier."

People and Portraits is at Proud Central (5 Buckingham Street, The Strand, London WC2) until 4 October. Admission is £3, £2 concs.

Now go to our Galleries index for more on London's visual arts scene

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