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(A Way of Seeing)
Nancy Hellebrand

August 24 - October 16, 2005
Museum Open House: September 7, 5:30-7:00pm

Nancy Hellebrand
Cloud #413

“Hellebrand’s cloud and waterscapes are informed by Sufism, a mystical orientation derived from Islam but abstracted by Western practitioners into a way of seeing the world that involves the belief that the appearance of the world is a veil covering the unrepeatable exquisiteness of the moment …instances of pared down and stilled emotion, concentrated upon within the framework of meditation, until they reveal a deeper truth.”
–William Zimmer


Nancy Hellebrand's photography has ranged over many different styles and techniques during her career. During the 1980’s she photographed handwriting, crumpled napkins and organic substances blotted onto tissues. Her subject matter has become ever more abstracted with a consistent orientation towards refining and simplifying her subjects to their essence.

Her more recent cloud and ocean images are initially recorded on color film. From this film image a scan is created and Nancy works digitally to enhance, alter, edit and compose. She uses a Roland archival ink jet printer with a subtlety of color palette that enables a gamut suited to each image. The prints are usually large in order to degrade the realistic and descriptive quality of the image details with a granular print surface and a more energetic, abstracted gesture.   Nancy Hellebrand
Exhibition Installation Image
Artist Statement

I began photographing in the early 1960's during my first year of college. My passion for photography was equaled by my obsession with social injustice. Using a 35mm camera with black and white film, I photographed street people and the have-nots of wherever I lived and traveled. My early work was printed in traditional silver gelatin, but then moved on to platinum and palladium prints, in an effort to eliminate the conventional silver print appearance. I used to be locked into making a naturalistic description of what I saw. It was part of my definition of straight photography, and I couldn't see myself going outside of that paradigm. The paradigm also included a split between my photographic work and my spiritual life. It is no longer the "thing itself" which inspires me to photograph, but that aspect of experience that lies beneath vision, physical touch or descriptive language. I photographed or I meditated. It took digital technology to free me from the narrowness of my own views… I want to photograph that which is purely energetic, which is beyond all that we see. Perhaps it can't actually be photographed, but the process of trying to do so is rich and deep. My photography and my spiritual practice become one in my desire to see.


Nancy Hellebrand was born in Philadelphia and attended the University of Southern California, Boston University and Columbia University, where she received a degree in English Literature. In addition to photography and film studies at college she also studied extensively with Bill Brandt in London and with Alexey Brodovitch in New York. She has exhibited her photographs for more than 30 years and has been included in major group exhibitions at the International Center for Photography, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia. Her early figurative work was included in the Big Picture exhibition at MOMA. Her solo shows include the National Portrait Gallery in London; two exhibitions at Pace/MacGill, New York; the Morris Gallery at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the Paul Cava and Locks galleries in Philadelphia. In 1984 she was awarded both a Guggenheim Fellowship and an NEA Fellowship.

She has taught photography for more than 15 years, including at Yale University, The New School, New York; and University of the Arts and Bucks County Community College in Philadelphia. Her works are held in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the National Portrait Gallery in London, Princeton University Art Museum and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. She lives in Sarasota, Florida.

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Nancy Hellebrand Nancy Hellebrand
Nancy Hellebrand
Cloud #362 Streams #3 Wave #2728

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