Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started in photography. What inspired you to start taking photos?
Well, music and lyricism was actually my first and greatest love. I was writing songs and poems from the age of eight and all I wanted to do was start a band. I actually did start a band when I was about nine, with two friends who were quite possibly roped into it, and my little brother (five years old at the time) who was definitely roped into it. Around this time I was also notorious for stealing the family digital camera and running around snapping photos or anything I could, usually, again, my poor brother or our cat.
I went to a performing arts high school and was surrounded by artists and creativity. We never had much money growing up, but I was gifted an old DSLR camera by one of my mum’s students who knew I loved photography but didn’t have the means for a camera. I’m still very thankful for that.
Because of the nature of my school, I was friends with a lot of musicians who coincidentally needed press photos and live concert photography. I started this because I thought, why wouldn’t I? I have a camera, they need photos, it just makes sense. This developed my love of portraiture, live music photography and creative direction. These days I adore so many styles and methods of photo making, and I think there is immense potential for expression in everything from stylised portraiture, street photography, documentary photography, analog developing processes and even practices like playing with homemade pinhole cameras and polaroid film.
Everyone has a unique style. Can you describe how you would define your style and what visual or conceptual elements characterize it?
I struggle with this question, because I feel as though I jump between styles in the same way I do between photography, painting, writing and filmmaking. But I love to capture a moment of fleeting action, a beat in someone’s life that feels significant yet easy to forget amongst the meshes of our dense and full lives. I think this is why I gravitate to street and concert photography; these are two places you so often experience pulses of fleeting human energy, connection and emotion. I feel like a little thief of moments, a collector of memories easy to forget. I love to shoot in black and white because I feel it puts more emphasis on the composition of what is happening in the frame.
Photography has the power to tell stories and convey emotions. Can you share an experience in which one of your photos had a significant impact on people or on yourself?
This photo springs to mind. It was taken in the early hours of the morning in a caravan park in Broken Hill (far west NSW). My partner at the time and I had been travelling through outback NSW sleeping in our car at caravan parks or campgrounds and both taking photos and documenting these fascinating pockets of culture. It was particularly hot this night and the dull buzz of bug zappers and mosquitoes were keeping me awake. Another bloke, an older guy who in my mind was maybe a truck driver or a tradie, was also awake, sitting on the front porch of one of the permanent cabins drinking a VB and smoking rollies. He just watched the night roll by for hours – no distraction of scrolling a phone or the likes. I wanted to take a photo of him so badly but it somehow felt wrong, invasive, and I liked the thought that he didn’t know he was being observed, that in that moment he may have felt like the only person alive. As soon as he left for bed, I took this photo. The absence of him still felt significant enough. In exhibitions and other publishing since then people have seemed to gravitate towards this image. I hope that it’s because that man in some senses still occupies the space in the photo, even in his absence.
What has been your most challenging photographic project to date and why?
At the beginning of this year I was given the incredible opportunity to participate in as well as curate a photography exhibition at Darlinghurst Road Gallery on Eora Land/Sydney, with a focus on emerging female photographers. It was a huge learning experience, curating a show, but so incredibly rewarding to work with the gallery and the other artists and be able to bring the two week residency to life, especially being able to put emphasis on female photographers in an industry often dominated by male voices.
Technology and photo editing tools are constantly evolving. Can you tell us about the techniques or equipment that you consider essential for your work?
Although I love to use increasingly varying equipment and technology, I think, personally, half the joy comes from creating something with the limited resources you have available to you. It often pushes me in my practice to be resourceful and more thoughtful with timing and composition. So, often it is what is available to me at that specific time! But generally speaking, I shoot my digital stuff on a Fuji XT2 at the moment and analog varies between an old Pentax 35mm, a Ricoh auto 66 medium format, and even a little half frame I love to play around with double exposure and abstract shots on!
Again, it’s all about doing the most with what you have. Ideally I love to be apart of the developing and scanning process of Analog photos and have some control over lighting and composure, but during a period of backpacking and shooting, I was essentially working with my cameras, my phone and whatever film lab I could find in the city I was in, so it is a game of ingenuity often.
There are many genres in photography, from portraits to nature photography. Do you have a favorite genre in which you feel most comfortable or enjoy shooting the most? Why?
I adore portraiture and how the lens can express the likeness, essence and soul of a person.
I adore street for its aptness in capturing the soul of a city, street, period in time, interaction or the social statements that can be made.
I adore live music photography and the way it conjures the pulse and energy of music, audience and ecstasy of a show we all know so well.
I love abstract and multimedia pieces, collages of different mediums stitched up to invigorate some beautiful scene.
Can you share an interesting or unusual anecdote you’ve experienced while taking photos?
While walking through the streets of Turin, Italy, I was stopped by an older Italian man who noticed my camera and wanted to ask about it. He bought me a coffee and told me he had been a war photographer on the ground in the early years of the Iraq War. One of the most fascinating people I have ever met. I asked to take his photo, then he asked to take mine. Both these photos were on a roll of film that never turned out. A moment lost to my memory.
Many photographers find inspiration in other visual artists or everyday life. What are some of your sources of inspiration?
Anything and everything, but storytelling is my biggest inspiration. Anytime a scene or moment of intense energy or divergence presents itself. I love travelling and getting inspired by the energy on the street of each new city, whether it’s industrial Northern England or the impossibly alive streets of Naples. I love that every living person has an immense story to tell, that inspires me the most.
Photography is a visual medium, but it often has a conceptual background. Have you worked on photographic projects that address specific themes or concepts? Can you share information about one of those projects?
I have always been vastly inspired by Australian Gothicism and tropes of old Australiana, think the legends of bushrangers, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Wake in Fright, the Murder Ballads of Nick Cave, even Henry Lawson’s sonnets of harrowing life in the bush. An attitude of spatial isolation and being at odds with the land; the force that always has the final say. While travelling through rural and outback regions of NSW and Victoria and taking photos, I was inspired by the strangely haunting qualities these places have. I developed a series of photos taken in towns like White Cliffs where people live underground and Silverton (the filming location of Mad Max) because they reminded me and inspired me of this same canonical concept, and expressing this through photos felt natural and right.
What inspires you when creating new images? Do you have a ritual or creative process you follow to find inspiration?
I like to work with a theme, or strive for a certain aesthetic. I think it comes back to needing some sort of guide or constraint, something to creatively push back on and test the boundaries. I am often inspired by other photographers and artists, both those I know personally and not at all, and think this is why it is so important to expose yourself to an array of styles, art forms, people and places.
Editing and post-processing are essential parts of photography. Do you have a particular focus on post-production of your images?
I don’t have any particular focus on these elements. Again, it is about what I am able to access and how I want to present the final piece. But generally speaking, I like to have control over at least the digital scanning of negatives, and often use different programs when working towards more mixed media projects.
For aspiring photographers who may be reading this interview, what is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve received in your career, or what advice would you like to share with them?
I think timing and patience are vital attributes of any good photographer. Knowing when a moment is right and taking time to learn the rhythm of the environment you’re shooting in, whether it’s a gig or a crowded street. I think being open to different creative directions is also essential, and being adaptable and forgiving when a concept develops into something you haven’t anticipated, because this is the beauty of art making, and we as artists are privileged to watch a creative seed flourish into its own living, breathing thing.
Recommend us the Instagram account of an artist that you like their work.
Ella is a photographer, writer and filmmaker living and working on Awabakal land/Newcastle, Australia.