1976 Born, Skive, Denmark
1995-1997: Paris, France
1999-present: Copenhagen, Denmark

My hearing has been poor since early childhood. Periodically, sounds and voices around me minimize, making me feel like I am in a glass case, without the opportunity to escape. In these periods, the outside world almost dissolves – my dreams come closer. I become a spectator of life and the people around me. My awareness of the surroundings increases, creating a kind of intensity in the glass case, where my thoughts can freely appear and form their own life. From this place, I try to look at, investigate and explore what surrounds me. Pictures have become my way of telling about and looking at the world.

In 1999, I was apprenticed to Photographer by Appointment to her Majesty, Rigmor Mydtskov, as her last trainee. She was 74 at the time. However, that was only after a ruthless trial period, where she tested me, both mentally and physically. Some nights I woke up with a racing heartbeat from fear of what she would put me through the following day. Those were years where I found myself in a constant process of trials and education, not only as a photographer, but also as a human being.

After having been an apprentice to Rigmor for 4½ years, I was very much in doubt about what I really wanted to pursue with my photography. The obvious choice was, of course, to open a studio and start as a portrait photographer, but it did not feel right for me. I needed to do something other than photographing people, and I missed a space to experiment with my photographic expression and my storytelling. For many years, I kept track of Fatamorgana, and was attracted to the personal and often expressive way of working with photography.

I was admitted to Fatamorgana. From the very beginning, Morten Bo was overwhelming, wild and intense. I went through a photographic cleansing that year, in which I often felt stripped, naked. It was scary and liberating all at once. The first task we were given was “Photographing a stranger,” and Morten chose a dark and blurred picture of mine. I could not believe it. Through my years with Rigmor, where I focused the Hasselblad for her, the films were subsequently checked on the light table, and if there was a blurred picture, I was not popular.

The years went by, and I established myself as a photographer, built a clientele, and continuously created my own projects and exhibited around Denmark and abroad. On the outside, everything seemed fine, but chaos reigned inside – it was difficult to keep it all together. To be married, become a mother, be ambitious, self-employed and have a child who did not sleep much at night, living in a housing cooperative that was going bankrupt and with a husband, who worked ceaselessly in the film industry.

Four years ago, I was divorced and found myself alone with a child to support and the challenge of making everyday life work for him. Shortly after, I became ill and was hospitalized for 14 days with face paralysis and speech difficulties. I was treated and discharged with a 4 months sick leave and a rehabilitation plan. When I returned in the Spring of 2015, I was very much in doubt if I could reestablish my business and manage to make a living of what I love most: to photograph.

For the first time in many years, during my sick leave, I had a break to think about my skills, about what drives me, and about establishing a stable foundation in my life by setting these into action. I love to teach and I decided to develop further my many years of experience in facilitating workshops and giving lectures – and into building a platform of online and physical workshops for professional and budding photographers.

My photographic foundation is now deeply rooted in the way I learned to look at images at Fatamorgana coupled with the artisan tradition and knowledge of the classic portrait photography from Rigmor Mydtskov. I photograph because it is a necessity. To me being a photographer is to be a human being in society. The potential of the photograph is that it is able to ask questions that society or we are not always able to ask. With our pictures, we can create the necessary dialogue that can open for a broader understanding of what it means to be human.

This is why I use the photograph to explore life, investigate reality and create insight, and to tell stories about it. To strengthen, inspire and create dialogue in society by creating authentic and personal portraits, stories and exhibitions.

Helga Theilgaard, 2022

Selected solo exhibitions

2022 – I´m here now
Banja Rathnov Gallery
Copenhagen Photo Festival

2022 – The Rootless – we who remain
Nationwide tour in Denmark in public spaces:
Kongens Nytorv, Copenhagen
Tobakken, Esbjerg
Store Torv, Aarhus
Kirkepladsen, Holstebro
Havnefronten, Aalborg
Brandts Torv, Odense
Forsorgsmuseet, The Danish Welfare Museum, Svendborg

2014 – Body of Desire
Work in public space
Skelbækgade, Copenhagen

2012 – Life’s Moments
Exhibition for 150th anniversary of the Deaconness Foundation

2010 – The Rootless
Nationwide tour in Denmark in public spaces:
The Phototek Esbjerg, Esbjerg
Store Torv, Aarhus
John F. Kennedy’s Square, Aalborg
Platanpladsen, Odense
Vanløse Square, Vanløse
The Danish Welfare Museum, Forsorgsmuseet, Svendborg

Selected books

2023 – I´m here now
Published by Forlaget Book Lab

2022 – The Rootless – we who remain
Published by Forlaget Book Lab

2010 – The Rootless
Published by Forlaget Ajour

2007 – The Island in the Sea
Published by The Bornholm Art Museum

Selected group exhibitions

2021 – The Rootless – we who remain
Special exhibition at the art festival Lys Over Lolland (Light Over Lolland)

2010 – The Rootless
Inaugural exhibition at the art festival Lys over Lolland (Light Over Lolland)

2009 – Brewer Jacobsen’s Portrait Exhibition
Museum of National History at Frederiksborg Castle, Hillerød

2008 – The Island in the Sea
The Nordic House, the Faroe Islands
The Nordic House, Iceland
Norwegian Fisheries Museum, Bergen, Norge

2007 – The Island in the Sea
The Bornholm Art Museum, Bornholm
The Round Tower, Copenhagen
Bovbjerg Lighthouse, Lemvig

2006 – Sommerskær
Kunstnere på Christiansø

2006 – Sophienholm

2006 – The Johannes Larsen Museum

2005 – The Portrait as a Landscape
Palivaren Gallery, Christiansø

2004 – Kvinder stiller skarpt
Dannerhuset Women’s Shelter, Copenhagen

2004 – Asylum Seeker
Danish Red Cross Culture Centre, Copenhagen

2004 – Fatamorgana’s Spring Exhibition
The A House

2003 – Fatamorgana’s Fall Exhibition
Nørre Allé Kirken, Copenhagen

2003 – F.19
Øksnehallen, Copenhagen

Selected awards

2013 – Best Photograph
The International Street Paper Awards

2007 – The Danish Arts Foundation
Working grant

2003 – Det Massmannske legat
Working grant

Selected films

2007 – The Island in the Sea
The Danish Film Institute

2001 – The Word and the Light
A Portrait of the Cinematographer Henning Bendtsen

The Danish Film Institute, Copenhagen
Odense Film Festival, Odense
British Film Institute, England

Selected public collections

The Rootless
Ministry of Social Affairs and the Interior