Phantasm Photography’s Clay Heldmann

I must tell you that I am totally PHASCINATED with PHANTASM PHOTOGRAPHY!
One of my absolute FAVORITE photography artists, I have one of Phantasm Photography’s Portraits and am enamored by its stunning beauty.
I would like to share with you some of Clay’s captivating photographs and an interview with the artist behind Phantasm Photography.

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What Artists on Etsy do you admire for their artistic talent?
I admire everyone who has a unique point of view and isn’t afraid to express it. I think that so often people look at an item and think, “oh I could do that,” but they don’t know about all the time and effort it has taken to hone your skills and really get good at creating something. I love the art of “promopocket,” “enchanted pond,” “johnwgolden,” and “thefactory101.”

What’s your background?
I am a mechanic with a creative streak. I love to work on vehicles and restore old hot rods, but something about photography and drawing really appeals to me too. I think that beauty can be found all around us, in the weirdest and most unusual of things. That is what I try to convey with my photographs.

What do you think is integral to the work of an artist?
I think an artist needs equal measures of vision and dedication. Artists need to have ideas and be creative but they also need to hone their skills and be dedicated to their work. You can see right away when an artist has made a half-hearted attempt and then it just lacks soul.

What role does the artist have in society?
I think the artists role is so make people think. We are living in a highly technological age where everything is instant gratification. People don’t really have to think anymore, they just look up the information. I think we, as artists, have the job of making people slow down– observe– and contemplate.

How has your artwork changed over time?
I started out using only digital format for my photographs and over time I have amassed an army of vintage cameras. I love the rich textures and imperfections that these out of date cameras provide. I think they tell a better story, and that is why I am now using them almost exclusively.

What art do you most identify with?
I think I most identify with surrealism, low-brow, and pop art. I love all types of photography and I like almost anything that someone made with their own hands.

What type of artwork do you most enjoying doing?
I like photography, sketching, and painting pin-stripe details on my fleet of vintage cars.

What themes do you pursue?
I love anything dark, mysterious, broken down, decrepit, or abandoned looking. I enjoy using my photographs to tell a story, or create a mystery around things that other people may see and dismiss.

What’s your scariest experience in creating art?
I was in an old barn in France once, up in a loft. The owners had told me to be careful and the floor wasn’t good, but I just had to get a photograph of the sun coming in through the old (falling down) roof. I leaned in a step closer and my foot went right through the flooring and I was stuck dangling about 40 feet above a stone floor. Not good.

Who is your favorite artist and art work?
I know for any photographer it kind of sounds like a cliche, but I love Ansel Adams. He was doing things 70-80 years ago that just blow me away today. I love the southwest and I love black and white photography, so he is my favorite.

Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?
I like meeting people when I travel. I like listening to their stories and hearing about what their home, or town, used to be like. I can almost imagine the people buzzing around and the buildings fresh and new– not falling down. When I photograph I want to preserve that person, their home, or town. An abandoned barn or ramshackle house inspires me to imagine what it once was like.

What is your artistic outlook on life?
I say keep going, keep evolving, and keep making art as long as it inspires you. There is beauty everywhere and inspiration in everything if you just slow down and take a look.

What inspires you to be creative?
Everything I see and my imagination.

What do you dislike about the art world?
I dislike the elitism and competition. I think people should work together and help each other, not climb over each other reaching for the top.

What is your dream project?
I would love to take a period of time off from work and travel all over the United States. I want to make a book of photographs from abandoned hotels and gas stations all over the country. So much of our neon history is disappearing and I want to record it while it is still here.

Name three artists you’d like to be compared to.

1.) Dorothea Lange
2.) Senol Zorlu
3.) Thomas Kettner
4.) Lyndon Wade
I love them all!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Not to me directly, but I love this quote from Futurama: “When you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all.”

Professionally, what’s your goal?
I would like to work from home and do all of my passions, (cars and photography), on my own time and schedule. I would want a hotrod shop and photography studio, so I can tinker with cars and develop my own prints. For now I am happy, but in the future that would be great.


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