Spreading her wings: how Tina Eisen is redefining beauty through macro photography

Nina Knaack
March 29, 2023
“I realised that there was a whole world out there, a world where you get paid for doing what you love” — Tina Eisen

An admirer of the obscure, Tina Eisen is well-known for her exceptional macro self-portraits. Having accumulated more than 10 years of experience in the commercial beauty industry, she explores unconventional concepts in her personal projects. She talks with Nina Knaack about where her love for intricate detail comes from and how photographing herself has given her more artistic freedom.

Tina Eisen’s childhood in East Germany was characterised by limited means, colourful surroundings, and a deep appreciation for nature and its inhabitants. “Growing up with very little, I learned to cherish the small details around me,” she reflects. Communist Germany was not a society that encouraged creative expression; her mother, on the other hand, lived by different rules. Tina fondly recalls how “at home, we had the freedom to explore nature and create fearlessly.”

Thus, from a young age, Tina nurtured her artistic sensibilities through her mother, whose own creativity inspired Tina to experiment with a range of artistic pursuits, from cake decorating to calligraphy to watercolours to cross-stitch. It was not until the age of 27, however, that Tina turned her attention towards photography, the medium that she would later make a full-time career of. 

Ayuthia, by Tina Eisen. “Beauty can be found in places you never dared to look.”

In particular, Tina has made a name as a portrait photographer. She realised early on that she was more drawn to faces than bodies, and became fascinated by the “tiny, intricate details,” details like “pores, a lash, or the lines on someone’s lips.” It was not long before she found her way to macro beauty, where hyper-zoomed in photography close-ups meet the beauty industry.

For Tina, macro beauty — quite literally — provides a different viewpointof everyday things that often go unnoticed. “My macro imagery gives the viewer a glimpse at something that they would not normally experience this close up. I want to offer a different perspective and hopefully a different way of thinking,” she explains. 

“One pays the bills, and the other sets my heart on fire.”

— Tina Eisen

Whilst the focus of Tina’s work is to draw out the exquisiteness contained within facial features, she is also known for turning her lens towards nature: flowers, plants, even insects. In doing so, she aims to highlight their often disregarded beauty. Bees, she notes as an example, are often dismissed out of fear, but with a closer look, their beauty and importance become more apparent.

Itchy, by Tina Eisen. “Some people feel an itch, some need to sneeze, most feel uncomfortable. Amazing. Because it made you feel something.”

The real message of Tina’s art, therefore, is to bring attention to the unsung heroes. Things that we may initially perceive as “disgusting,” such as fungus on a tree, Tina regards as remarkable and resilient in their own way, with a unique value. “They’re just like humans living in various political regimes, finding their own ways to survive,” she says.

This type of work, Tina says, is “the fun stuff.” The rest is her commercial work. As she puts it, “One pays the bills, and the other sets my heart on fire.”

But when the pandemic struck, Tina felt even this fire being extinguished. She was left feeling adrift, unable to create due to the restrictions on close contact, rendering macro photography almost impossible. “This had a severe impact on my mental health. I had lost my means of expression, both commercially and personally,” she recalls. 

Rather than be defeated, she instead turned to self-portraiture as a new form of artistic exploration. By photographing her own face, Tina was able to experiment with even more techniques and mediums than she could have done when working alongside others. “I had found a way to express myself as a one-person team,” she reflects, “and I could try things most models would likely frown upon. From bees on my tongue to glass shards on my lips — I could do whatever I liked and felt more artistic freedom than ever before.”

Tina minted her first NFT in February 2021. Initially hesitant to explore the world of web3, she soon found that it provided a newfound freedom for her work. “Before January 2021, I had never even heard of NFTs. At first, I was wary and even thought it might be a scam,” she explains. Despite her initial doubts, her piece Itchy sold on Foundation within hours of listing it. “That was the moment I realised that there was a whole world out there,” she recalls, “a world where collectors value your art and you get paid for doing what you love, a world where people appreciate the things that I am passionate about creating.”

Drenched, by Tina Eisen. “Showcasing the beauty of nature in intricate, often overlooked details.”

NFTs have allowed me to expand my audience and share my work with a much larger group of people,” says Tina. “I’m no longer limited to a small number of potential clients and can create art for myself.” While her photographs are initially static, Tina incorporates moving details, such as wind blowing through hair, a bug crawling on a lip, or a drip of honey suspended in mid-air. These nuances captivate the viewer, eliciting emotions, and drawing them into Tina’s world. Her piece Drenched embodies all that she stands for: “showcasing the beauty of nature in intricate, often overlooked details.”

“I’m no longer limited to a small number of potential clients and can create art for myself.”

— Tina Eisen

Happier Than Ever, which Tina minted in January 2022, holds another special place in her heart. She describes it as “raw and dark,” capable of making viewers “wince in pain.” But many people connect with it, she says, because it encapsulates personal battles. “It’s a tribute to those who smile through tears, those who crumble when nobody expects it, and those who lend a shoulder despite their own struggles. It is a way to turn grief and pain into something beautiful.”

Now Tina creates art exclusively for herself, and the admiration of collectors and fellow artists has given her the assurance to remain faithful to her artistic vision. “I am still convinced that there is much room for growth, whether it be in enlarging my circle of fellow artists and collectors, or improving my skills as an artist,” she says. “Yet, with the knowledge of what I stand for, it is far easier to strive towards actualising my artistic ambitions.”

“I realised that there was a whole world out there, a world where you get paid for doing what you love.”

— Tina Eisen

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Nina Knaack
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Nina is passionate about telling the stories of artists and documenting their artistic processes, so that they can focus on creating. She’s written for a range of cultural magazines in the Netherlands, her homeland, including 3voor12 and the Groninger Museum. Her work as a contemporary art historian has seen her work at Museum Voorlinden, the Van Gogh Museum, and Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Today, her main and ever-increasing focus is on the digital art world, and she is fascinated by the endless possibilities of web3 and how crypto artists are pushing the boundaries of creating without gatekeepers.