At 11-years-old, Nora Hollstein got her first camera, recalling that she only really wanted it because of its fun colour and flip-flop shape. “I remember that I went to some kind of fun park with a friend and shot two rolls of film,” she tells It’s Nice That. “I was super disappointed by the outcome; none of the pictures showed the excitement I felt or how enchanted I was by this place. The shocking part was that looking at photos made me extremely happy and not being able to make these kinds of photos was frustrating.”
Today, Nora has a bachelor’s in graphic design from the University of the Arts Berlin and is currently working towards a master’s in Applied Photography and Time-Based Media at the University of Applied Arts Vienna. She operates a photographic practice which, in many ways, attempts to do exactly what she failed to do as a child: encapsulate the true energy of a moment or place in an image which makes someone feel something. “[Photography] is able to make you feel unlike any other medium – except of course moving image,” Nora says. “At least for me it is that way. If a photograph triggers something in me it can last hours, it can make me revisit memories, plan a trip or overthink my life choices.”
Based between Berlin and Vienna, Nora, who grew up in Hanau near Frankfurt, caught our eye for her portfolio which includes personal projects, portraiture and commissioned work too. In the past, she’s been involved particularly in the editorial world, working with clients including Zeit Magazin, Vogue Germany, and Das Magazin.
Visually, there’s a softness to Nora’s work but also a consistent atmosphere. “I want my photographs to feel as if I am in a strange, unreal place,” Nora explains. It’s something she achieves through dramatic lighting and a rich use of colour, elements which are vital to her practice. “For a long time I have been haunted by the feeling that not enough magic surrounds me in my everyday life, which is definitely due to media brainwashing and my tendency for pathos,” she says. “I think I compensate that in a way through my photos. The more I am bored with my life the more I will try to make photos that excite me, that have a certain glow or nostalgia.” In turn, she’s also drawn to objects which carry “a sort of spell, charm or magic,” in her eyes.
In a project titled Limerent Object, which Nora first began last year, perhaps best expresses Nora’s talent for creating tenor. One she describes as her “most personal” project, it explores the terms “limerence” a term coined by Dorothy Tennov in 1979 which “describes an involuntary state of mind resulting from a romantic attraction to another person associated with an overwhelming, obsessive need to have these feelings reciprocated,” Nora explains, adding that “In my youth, an early desire for love and affirmation sometimes led me to compulsive behaviour in interpersonal relationships especially towards objects of affection.” Limerent Object, therefore, examines the possibility of being “a limerent person in a digitised world,” through a collection of motifs “like flowers or intertwined fingers, or symbolic ones like a snake on a woman’s belly or a lit match.”
On the more commercial side of things, Nora tells us her favourite assignment this year has been photographing psychoanalyst Erika Freeman in her apartment in Vienna, for the cover of Zeit Magazin. “During the second world war she fled Austria to the United States when she was still very young,” Nora tells us. “It was so amazing to meet her, at over 90-years-old she was full of energy, extremely funny and told so many stories about her life and her husband’s paintings, showing me a different one every few minutes, I could hardly keep up with her. In the first few minutes, she told me she has always been a feminist and wanted a female photographer. That meant a lot.”
Reflecting on her practice a whole, Nora explains that if she had to pinpoint one overarching theme it would be “escapism”. And we couldn’t agree more. Flicking through Nora’s portfolio, no matter what the project, creates a feeling of otherworldliness in a viewer. Her considered use of pacing, colour and composition instils a certain calm, providing a moment to take a deep breath and see the world through Nora’s perspective. When it comes to photography, she says the most exciting part, for her, “is creating new realities” and so that’s what she’ll continue to do through projects like Limerent Object which she hopes to publish as a book at some point.
Nora Hollstein: L.O. – Limerent Object (Copyright © Nora Hollstein, 2020)
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.