The Robb Reader: Helena Christensen
A conversation with the supermodel, photographer, and world traveler.
For Helena Christensen, beauty is more than skin deep. The former Miss Denmark with the piercing eyes was a fixture on the covers of Vogue, Elle, and Harper’s Bazaar throughout the 1990s. She has since found her footing on the other side of the camera, photographing fashion campaigns for Rag & Bone and Swarovski and documenting her world travels for Starwood Hotels & Resorts’ Luxury Collection. A self-described “gypsy,” Christensen recently paused to speak with Robb Report about the world as seen through her lens.
What drew you to photography?
My father was a photographer. My interest in art comes a lot from him. I hitchhiked around the world and took photos when I was 18. In my late 20s, I started working more professionally. It has been a personal and passionate joy of mine for a long time, especially to be able to use it in various forms to make a difference in other people’s lives. [With the Luxury Collection], I explore exotic destinations and find hidden treasures. I photograph the people and the landscape, and maybe inspire people to travel to these places. This is the perfect job for me.
You traveled quite a bit as a model as well.
It was magical. I was a young girl traveling around the world, experiencing different cultures, speaking different languages. We stayed in gorgeous places but only for a day or two. It was way too fast, but I got a little taste of the wonder and it has stayed with me.
What are some of your favorite hotels?
The Gritti Palace is one of my favorites. Venice itself is such a magical place. When you have walked through the city for an entire day and you get back to the Gritti, the magic just continues. Tambo del Inka is also unbelievable, in a breathtaking valley in the mountains of Peru. I went with my mom, and we had such a luxurious time there. In Paris, I love L’Hotel. It is the most precious little gem of a hotel. Oscar Wilde died in one of the rooms. The building is a historical landmark, and the staircase inside is a masterpiece in itself.
And your favorite places to photograph?
I have an immense passion for history and love old towns. Morocco is endlessly colorful but still mysterious. In Cusco, you can just put your camera up to your eye and anything you see will be amazing. In Vienna, everything is just perfect: the horses, the cobblestones, the monumental buildings and statues. And Copenhagen, where I grew up, is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
You have also traveled as a photographer for Oxfam International.
I was asked to be an ambassador for Oxfam International to raise awareness for climate change. I was really honored to be able to interview and photograph the women in Peru, and to learn firsthand about climate change. You read what you read, but to travel with people who have worked their whole lives on this issue is like being on an educational trip. I visited Kenya and Nepal for the same reason.
We hear you travel in style at home in New York as well.
I have a lavender-blue Morris Minor from the late 1960s. It was my first car and, in fact, my only car so far. I love its almost-cartoonish shape and the sound of its horn. It never goes faster than 50 or 55 mph, so everyone gets to pass me, but no matter how bitter and icy the winter is, my little car always works. If I ever pass another Morris, I have to beep the horn twice and wave.
What is your next adventure?
New Orleans is a city that fascinates me endlessly. I would like to go there and stay at least a month. I want to become one with the town.