Patrice Aphrodite Helmar

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Artist Statement

Near the time I graduated from high school, sparrows began to make their nest in the eaves over the front steps of my dad’s camera store. A sparrow couple worked in the late wet spring months to build up a little home for their babies to grow. This nest was met with great speculation, and small talk by shop regulars. My dad started to photograph these birds each year, recording the progress of the sparrow babies’ growth. After school, I’d often sit on the front steps with my dad. Once he talked about social distance, using the little birds perched on telephone wires above us for example. He told me you have to be comfortable getting close to something to take a good photograph. Later when I left for college in the lower 48, I received a postcard of the babies on their first flight; their parents carefully guiding them into the world.

In Greek mythology, the sparrow is a bird sacred to the goddess Aphrodite. The little birds symbolize true love, and a spiritual connection. In Egyptian mythology, sparrows were said to wrangle souls of the recently departed and carry them to heaven. Sailors would often have sparrows tattooed on their body, in case their ships sank. Many sailors believed that the sparrow would catch their soul if they died at sea.

The portrait series, “The Sparrows” was made with a view camera. The characters in these photographs show a vulnerability, and strength. These photographs were shot in private interiors, lit with lights often used for making films. The prints are made on archival photo paper using a C-print process. All of these photos were made in and around New York City in 2015.

The other body of photographs were taken more freely in the world. There is no title for this series, but titles of the photographs are descriptive. These photographs were made with 35mm, and medium format cameras. All but one of these photographs are silver gelatin prints. They were taken in NYC, Iceland, and Alaska from 2014 – 2015. The region isn’t always clearly defined by interiors, while other frames shape a northern pastoral.

My most recent video work has been focused on the lives of non-actors. “Forget-Me-Not”, is a twelve minute unscripted video. Fourteen-year-old Elijah talks about his philosophy of life, and his hopes for the future. He lives in a trailer in Southeast Alaska with his grandmother. His mother lives in a shed built off the trailer, and his father is out of the picture.

“Mockingbird Wish Me Luck” is a twelve minute narrative scripted video piece about a queer hairdresser in her early 20’s living and working in South Philadelphia. Mo lives in a punk house with roommates, and two dogs she rescued from dog-fighting rings. She has a hard time getting to work on time, and often has complicated relationships with men.

I approach photography, and filmmaking from a wearing my heart on my sleeve approach to life. I’m compelled to photograph, and feel most comfortable in public with a camera in hand. I fall in love with strangers on the street, on the train, in bars. I notice something gut wrenching, beautiful, or funny in the world – and want to point to it. Taking photos makes me feel like someone else might see, understand, and maybe I won’t be so overwhelmed. Class, sexuality, and addiction form the locus of my work which are most often concerned with the lives and stories of other people. I want to last and be counted.



American (b. 1981) Juneau, Alaska
Lives and works in NYC, NY


2015 MFA, Visual Arts, Photography, Columbia University
2013 MAT, Secondary Education, University of Alaska Southeast
2003 BA, Writing/American Literature, Southern Oregon University


2013 Last Call, Studio 154 Gallery, Juneau, Alaska
2011 Honeymoon Tonight, Juneau Douglas City Museum, Juneau, Alaska
2010 North American, Alaska State Museum Store, Juneau, Alaska
2009 It’s All Greek to Me, Annie Kaill’s Fine Art Gallery, Juneau, Alaska
2009 Prints & Accidents, Fireweed Gallery, Gustavus, Alaska
2006 Real Good Heart, Two Crow Gallery, Juneau, Alaska


Floating Point, Judith Charles Gallery, New York, NY
Invisible Cities, BOSI Contemporary, New York, NY
Columbia MFA Thesis Show, Fisher Landau Center, LIC, NY

Portrait Show, LeRoy Neiman Gallery, New York, NY
Alaska Biennial, Anchorage Museum, Anchorage, AK
Gordon Parks International Photo Contest, Fort Scott, KS
New York Photo Festival, Brooklyn, NY
Process, Port Exhibitions Staten Island, NY
MFA First Year Exhibition, Wallach Gallery New York, NY
Networking Tips for Shy People, Brooklyn, NY

Print & Photo, LeRoy Neiman Gallery, New York, NY
Alaska Photographic Arts, KTOO Gallery, Juneau, Alaska
Juried Art Exhibition, Juneau Arts & Culture Center, Juneau, Alaska
Alaska Positive, Alaska State Museums, Select Cities in Alaska

Night, National Museum of Iceland, Reykjavík, Iceland

12 * 12, Juneau Douglas City Museum, Juneau, Alaska
Juried Art Exhibition, Juneau Arts & Culture Center, Juneau, Alaska


2014 Finalist, Gordon Parks Prize
2014 Finalist, New York Photo Festival
2014 Dean’s Travel Grant, Columbia University
2013 Visual Arts Scholarship, Columbia University


The Poetry of Craigslist, Self Published Zine
Quatro, Columbia Literary Magazine
“New Year’s Eve”, VICE Magazine

Catch & Release, Columbia Online Journal

Last Call, Self Published Zine

Tidal Echoes Literary Journal , Featured Artist, University of Alaska Press

Tidal Echoes Literary Journal, Contributing Artist, University of Alaska Press


“Invisible Cities at BOSI Contemporary”, Gregory de la Haba, Whitehot Magazine
“The Invisible Cities”, Art on Demand
“Invisible Cities”, NY Art Beat

“Helmar’s Last Call” , Amy Fletcher, Juneau Empire
“On the Outside” , Arit John, Grapevine

“Teacher and Student,”  Asgeir H. Ingolfsson, Grapevine
“Forming a Human Life in this Country,” Einar Falur Ingolfsson, Morgunbladid


2015 Adjunct Professor, Photo I, Columbia University
Adjunct Professor, Black and White Photography, Pratt Institute


2015 Works In Progress, Columbia University
2014 Works In Progress, Columbia University
2012 Evening at Egan Lecture, University of Alaska Southeast


2015 Born Into This, LeRoy Neiman Gallery, New York, NY
2012 University of Alaska Southeast, Juried Student Art Show, Guest Juror


Juneau-Douglas City Museum, Barnard Zine Library, Duke University