Helena Kristiansson on eSports, photography and joining ESL as a full-time photographer

If you follow eSports, you’ll have probably seen Helena Kristiansson’s photography. She’s captured incredible moments across many different games and events including the Intel Extreme Masters finals in Katowice, multiple DreamHacks, the World of Tanks finals in Warsaw and the recent 2014 All-Star in Paris.

Her ability to capture not only key moments but also the electric atmosphere of modern eSports tournaments is unmatched, which is why we’re happy to be bringing Helena to Cologne as our new dedicated photographer.

We sat down with the passionate photography professional to talk about the road that brought her here.

ESL:  For those who don’t know you, can you give a brief introduction to the person behind the camera?
Helena: Hello! Well, in short I’m a Swede who has been based in Stockholm and for the last couple of years working hard on living her dream – traveling the world, capturing incredible events while meeting amazing people!

ESL: It’s always refreshing to talk to people following their dreams. How did you actually get into photography?
Helena: My dad has always been into photography and I borrowed his old cameras from a very early age. For my tenth birthday I got my very own camera, and was constantly begging my parents for more film (yes, this was before the digital age of photography). After finally having saved up for a digital one my, interest truly kicked off. As a side project to my marketing studies, it continued to grow, and then eSports appeared and I found a winning combination.

ESL: Very interesting! So how did you find eSports and how did it come to be the focus of your photography?
Helena: Although I got into gaming quite early, starting to regularly volunteer at DreamHacks as of 2004, it wasn’t until seven years later that I more or less found eSports, and with it eSports photography.

Having been part of various DreamHack teams in the past, I decided to join the coverage team in 2011 as photography had always been a passion of mine, then suddenly, just a few weeks before the event, the team leader dropped out and I was asked to jump in and take charge of all coverage, including eSports. So I prepped myself as well as I could, watching countless VODs and familiarizing myself with the players and casters. When I got to experience the eSports tournaments at the event itself, the massive crowds and games basically sealed the deal and I’ve never looked back.

ESL: So how did it evolve from there to finally landing at ESL?
Helena: Well, after my exposure to eSports photography, I invested a lot of time and effort into turning my hobby into a profession, so in addition to covering all the DreamHacks since 2011, I branched out and started working with various organizers including Red Bull, Blizzard, Riot, SteelSeries, Razer and ultimately ESL.

I fell in love with ESL’s way of doing events at gamescom 2013, where I shot the WCS global finals – epic events and awesome people make for a good combo. So, after returning for Katowice 2014 and having an amazing time there, we started talking about expanding the cooperation and the rest is history. Now I’m moving to Cologne and closing my part-time studio in Stockholm in order to transition into full-time eSports, which is something that’s been a dream of mine for a long time.

ESL: So what can we look forward to with you joining ESL?
Helena: A definite advantage of being a fully fledged part of the team is that I won’t just cover the large global events but will also be able to bring my style of photography to small productions and studio events. I’m really excited about going to Intel Extreme Masters Shenzhen as I’ve never been to Asia before and love being exposed to new cultures, foods and crowds, and I’m extremely hyped for ESL One in Frankfurt. Having experienced the Katowice crowd, I’m very much looking forward to the chance to capture eSports in a proper stadium such as the Commerzbank-Arena.
ESL:  Do you have any photographers you look up to or who have inspired your work?
Helena: As eSports, and eSports photography, is a pretty new field, I would say I developed my style without any role models. I had to find my own way and I’m very happy with where I ended up, both in style of photography and as a part of ESL.

ESL:  What are your favorite eSports photos of all time and why?
Helena: This is a hard one. If I can pick a top three (in no particular order):

  • Stephano wins WCS – The perfect winner who truly knows how to celebrate, and it was a great conclusion to an epic event.

  • The Katowice crowd – The crowd at this event was probably the best I’ve ever experienced.

  • Virtus.pro wins Katowice – The electric feeling in the air when Virtus.pro won in front of the Polish crowd was, to me, an adrenaline overload as I was on the stage, right next to the team, ready with my camera.

ESL: Are you a gamer yourself?
Helena: While I’m a passionate viewer and love watching eSports, it’s rare that I actually find time to play. When I do play, it’s mostly Hearthstone or more casual games. For watching, I really enjoy StarCraft II and League of Legends, mostly, although I try to add new games to the list as often as I can as I need the knowledge to produce good photos

ESL: How do you feel about moving to Cologne, and Germany in general? Do you speak German?
Helena: I see this as an awesome adventure and I’m really looking forward to joining a great team in Cologne, even though I don’t speak a single word of German. I really liked the vibe of the city when I last visited it during gamescom and have heard a lot of good things about living there. As I also know a lot of the ESL team already, I’m sure I’ll feel at home quite quickly.

ESL: I’m sure you will! Thanks a lot for your time and detailed answers. Any shoutouts you’d like to make?
Helena: Thank you! I’m really looking forward to it. There are way too many people I want to thank, so I’m just going to thank everyone in eSports – the teams, the players, the organizers and most importantly the fans, because they make my dream job possible. Thank you!


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