The art of fiction and fantasy requires exceptional, creative madness. Artist Katie Eleanor weaves her own world of gothic romance and fantasy her photographic visualization. Read Lomography’s full interview with the talented artist here.
Let’s start off this interview with something different. We learned that you are not only a photographer, but an illustrator as well, and you use both personas to create fictional photographs, manifested in the series “Saint Wanderer’s Hospital”. How do you compose your image? What do you look for in your images?
It forever starts with words of some form. I keep a diary by my bedside, which I fill with these initial words, characters, or stories, and even my phone is filled with these notes.
You mention Saint Wanderer’s Hospital, which I will briefly talk through in terms of process as I believe that story is particularly reflective of the skeleton to my creative practice. It was written over the season of summer two years ago. The birth of these words are the birth of the road away from our common reality. Travelling this road is my peace, my solace, and my purpose. Next I let the story fester, I allowed it a metaphorical summer and winter until it was all consuming to me and I understood its reason and its result. Then I moved back into my life around me to handle the logistics of each shoot, and through my body into creating the sets, styling, casting. Comparably this is often a quick process.
It’s hard to define what exactly I look to see in my images, I allow my instincts to take over. I see the character in my head and I push until I can bring them out. Often the final negative is the one where the model has just allowed a new spirit to embrace their body.
Do you find yourself not only as a photographer and illustrator, but as a storyteller as well? What do you think a photographer should look for when he wants to tell a story?
I estimate storyteller is the overall root of my purpose, illustrator the trunk, and photographer the branches. I do solely believe my tree is incredibly young, and the journey I see before me is unfathomable – but truly it is all I can be good for so I must try.
If you want to tell a story, create one that consumes you.
You shoot in black and white medium format. May we know why you opt for analogue and not digital?
The simplicity and the tactility, I need to be able to feel and watch my images work. Observing me with a digital camera is almost laughable these days. For me it is simply like being a better archer than swordsman – same goal, different instrument.
You hand-paint your photographs as well, in a very dark, subtle yet romantic palette. How would you describe your choices of colors? Why do you prefer to hand-paint and not just shoot in color?
I like to hand-colour for the control. Photography is an incredible bridge between our joint reality and your own version, but often its restrictions come close to touching me. I am obsessed with the idea of perception in images, and hand-colouring allows me to access another level of being able to control what the viewer may perceive.
My colours are subtle as I find watching colours secretly whisper together on the print instinctively pleasing. In all aspects, I prefer to whisper.
Tell us something about your photographic, illustrative narratives. What are the narrative themes you mostly find yourself making with your images?
Sensibly my narratives often revolve loosely around my current states of being; often creating these stories work as a coping therapy to grip onto things I do not fully understand. For instance, Saint Wanderer’s Hospital was created whilst I recovered from the sickest I’ve ever been. When I felt small I wrote about monarchies, and when I felt numb I wrote about ghosts.
Currently I am thinking a lot about rehabilitation and entrapment.
The characters in your photographs are all fantasy-like, and as you’ve said, these images are fictional narratives. Can you tell something about your characters/subjects? What are they like?
There is Bluebird, she is myself, and there are some with broken bones and some with broken hearts. There is a man who is made from oil and feathers, and a creature whose nails grow into the veins of the earth. They are broken down facets of a larger spirit. They have woes, just as we do, and lovers just as we do. I do not control them; I only witness them. They often never even see me looking.
If you could pick a photographic movement/art style/art principle that you will always follow, what would it be?
Pictorialism, always – it is a movement that enthralls me, and one that organically matches many of my thoughts on photography. Pioneering Pictorialist, Henry Peach Robinson’s writings in particular I found helped ground and make sense of many of the messy, instinctive, thoughts I have about creating. For instance, ‘unity’ in a successful image being defined as expressing ‘the harmony of the Divine mind as rendered in creation… a quality more easy to feel than describe’. Furthermore that ‘the faculty of artistic sight does not come by nature, but that it is a cultivated sense’ is a quote that acts as fertilizer on my small but growing orchard of creative thought.
We also learned and found you through your Yahoo! interview. There are many kinds of artists, but most of them experience this internal struggle. A musician looks for solace with his instrument; a painter with his brush and canvas; a writer such as myself find the comfort in words. As a photographer, how does the camera comfort you?
My camera shows me our collective world in a light I never fathomed I would be able to access. It was at that point of discovery that all my cogs in my heart and mind started working together. Honestly, seeing my immaterial visions before my real eyes gives me such an addictive high. It is a comfort because the process of creating merely makes the ultimate sense to me.
The world can come up with many forms of pain, sadness and other sad things to pull us down. The life of an artist was never meant to be easy. Apart from photography, what keeps you fighting through?
The family I have created for myself. They water me and help me grow strength everyday, strength I never thought I could have even two years ago. I try to show them love in every way I am able, as I know often carrying me can be a heavy burden.
What/who are your creative muses that help you with your art?
Sophia: my muse. Her incredible intelligence, artistic thought, and fierce all-loving spirit inspires me everyday. She is a manifestation of my ‘better-self’, and appears to come directly from the worlds my tales often take place. Having the honor of being able to experience the world with her, and as an extension being able to photograph her (even though it has only been a handful of times thus far), is something I am so very grateful for.
Nicholas: my best friend and mentor, my sunflower, my crow and my haloed angel. I am so lucky to have a creative partner who is so endlessly grounded, humble, and hard-working. He shows me peace when I only see burning. We work and laugh together, dance and create together. He makes me want to be a better artist and human everyday, and I adore him with my full heart.
Between being a photographer, artist and storyteller, which do you identify yourself the most? And with the identity you most prefer, what do you think is your role as a human in the world?
I identify with photographer as its how others usually identify me, but really I have an unknown underlying hatred of the word. Artist suits me on a wider spectrum, and my instincts on storyteller make me doe-eyed and childlike. I do not feel worthy of either role, but I strive towards them everyday. I am not really sure what I am, but what will be will be.
This creative path, wherever it may go, (even if that is no where at all), is my purpose I believe. It may not amount to anything, but really it feels set into my bones. This is the journey I am meant to take, this is the method in which I grow and share with the world. My skin tingles when I think about how right it is for me.
Many among the Lomography community members are aspirant photographers hoping to have their breakthrough as well. What word of advice can you give them?
If this is your purpose then allow it to feed and sustain you: never take it for granted or abuse it, work at it everyday, respect it and adore it. Understand that many circumstances are simply out of your control.