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Cyril Helnwein WOMAN Magazin (Austria)

4-page article and interview in this month's WOMAN Magazine (
 with Ulorin Vex, Ashton Kutcher, Marylin Manson, Gottfried Helnwein, Andy Warhol and Kojii Helnwein.

The unedited interview (originally done in English): 

Congratulations on your amazing and extraordinary photographs. Where do the ideas come from? More spontaneously or as the results of long sleepless nights?


Thank you!  The ideas are more spontaneous than otherwise, but in the case of my latest photo-series “Beautiful Disasters” the words came first and the ideas where based upon them. Language has always interested me, especially the humorous parts of it.


War Ihnen das Fotografieren sozusagen schon in die Wiege gelegt?


I don’t think so because I could have easily chosen to do something completely different, even if still artistic (music, literature, plastic arts, etc.) Genetics has absolutely nothing to do with it – the environment one grows up in and one’s experiences definitely do, in my case an artistic family.


Are you in general a good observer of people, their reactions and special situations in daily life?


I would like to think so, yes.  Sometimes I’m mistaken in my observations, but mistakes are a part of learning.


Are you a perfectionist?


When it comes to certain things, such as my photography, definitely. With each photo series that I create, I try to reinvent myself completely and do something totally new for myself.  This way I learn more and keep it fresh and interesting for myself.   I often switch between different photography techniques, film vs. digital, black and white vs. colour, etc.


In your photographs you also show a lot of humour. Do you think humour and not taking oneself too serious is important in any aspect of life?


Without any doubt! My whole life has been about having adventures and challenges, that’s what gets my blood flowing. And I really don’t care much if someone doesn’t get my humour, that’s his or her loss. I’ve already been called a sexist, a racist and a blasphemer (by people who don’t know me, who only saw my pictures and obviously don’t get it).


You are also personal assistant of your father. How does this work? Do you sometimes really disagree about things?


Yes- I do all his art production stuff, fine art printing, and computer/technical stuff. Generally we don’t disagree but when it comes to his art, that is completely his own doing.


They say that often if you have a strong and famous father it is hard for the children to step out of his shadow doing their own artistic stuff. How do you feel about that?


If it’s a problem, I’ve never noticed it myself.  All of my siblings are artists and we all have our own styles and mediums, so you can’t really compare them to that of our father. I suppose my brother Ali has it the easiest because he is the only musician.


In the Interview I did with your parents last summer your father said: „Aus Rache an diesem System durften meine Kinder alles machen!“ Your mother said: „Alles auch nicht!“ Was she the stricter parent? Do you maybe remember a funny situation where they didn’t agree?


My father was always more a friend than a parent; he never told us what we can or can’t do. My mother didn’t either really but she was definitely more protectively concerned, as a mother would be.  My father would let me spit at the editors when he was doing covers for TIME, climb around the front seat of his big American car that he drove around Vienna, and even roam through Circus Roncalli unattended when he and I lived there for a short while. When the Dompteur came running into the director’s car white as a ghost because I had been petting the lions through the cage bars, he would of course have educative words with me but it was never to break my will or tame my spirit.  Somehow he knew I would always be okay, and I was – he could even leave me alone on a playground in the middle of Brooklyn (in the mid-80s) and come collect me after dusk.  My mother would have probably fainted if she saw half the things I got up to as kid.


And your father said, his children were not forced to go to school. Your mother remembered: „But they wanted to!“ Did you go to school voluntarily?


Sure, mostly it was fun except on a few occasions where I had to be convinced it was necessary.  I went to many different schools around the world as my parents travelled a lot, but when I turned 16 I decided to leave school as I didn’t see much point in it anymore – not because I thought I knew everything, but because I knew I wasn’t going to learn anything more useful to me.  None of us kids went to third-level schools, except for my youngest brother Amadeus who I like to call the Professor (he has a masters in writing and a bachelors in arts). Apart from him, we all learned our crafts through our own undertaking.


By the way: How do you and your wife bring up your children? Are there strict rules? Will your kids have to go to school?


Various Disney princesses and the Seven Dwarves have done most of the manners training for my two girls (7 & 2 years old).  My oldest goes to primary school in Ireland and the younger one is currently enrolled in a potty training course at the local crèche.  And our youngest child (2 months old) is such a toothless smiley baby that I surely can’t berate him if he farts during dinner!


But I guess it was a blessing to grow up in such a liberal and artistic family!?


I am certainly very lucky and I had an amazing childhood.  I can only pass it on as best as I can.


What are you most thankful about?


I have always had many friends since a young age - even my parents were surprised by how many people would greet me by name, and vice versa, when we would walk down the street. Complete strangers to them but familiar faces for me, I knew everyone one a few blocks around when we lived on Neustiftgasse.  I am very thankful for all my great friends, but most of all for the loving and amazing person that I am married to and our children. It’s a pleasure to watch them having fun and being themselves.


Back to your work: Those great photographs  „Assman“.... how did you persuade a stubborn donkey to pose for the camera the way you want him to?


The donkey was quite friendly and loved having someone around.  It was in a field up on a mountainside with another donkey and some llamas, but it seemed he was bored of their company.


And the cock on that picture... did he behave?


The rooster was also quite tame, maybe even a bit confused as to what was going on but he didn’t mind at all.  A friend of mine took care of him while I was shooting but he needed very little attention.  We have our own chickens, ducks and geese in Ireland (my father’s own Entenhausen) and they are very wild in comparison to „Ricardo“ (he was a Mexican rooster).


Sie sind mit Hollywoods Prominenten auf Du und Du. Viele sammeln Ihre Bilder. Wie stellt sich die Glitzerwelt für Sie dar?


The Hollywood scene (all the parties and the crowd that goes along with that) doesn’t interest me at all to be honest.  I have some friends who happen to be famous and they are great people, but for me there is more magic spending time in the Irish Countryside or a little old-fashioned pub with my friends – amongst them are bricklayers, farmers, carpenters, primary school teachers, shop owners, fellow artists and computer programmers.


If you could change something about our world (for your children). What would it be?


I think the most important thing that this planet needs is education, and I’m not talking about what you learn in school but real education about what is going on in the world – maybe elucidation is the better word for it. That is the only thing that will break the vicious circle of wars, criminality, insanity, abuse of our natural resources, etc.  There is much evil in the world but it is not because the majority of people are evil, it is because they are uneducated and thus easily manipulated by the few (the actually evil ones).  I feel that a new revolution is just around the corner, but when exactly is hard to say.  As history has proven over and over, people will endure much trampling on before they start to even see what is happening and rebel.


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ArtOfTheMystic's avatar
WOW - super article, Cyril! Great show in Vienna!
I am currently working on the page I promised you - coming up very soon......
Cyril-Helnwein's avatar
Thanks a million Otto!
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