Women in Art : Ellen Grace
The first in a new series for the Journal, we meet women in art and talk about their lives, work and inspirations. Today we're meeting Ellen Grace, a self described 'Botanical Photographer' to talk about embarking on her masters degree, growing up in Norfolk and how she came to focus on Botanicals.
I first came across Ellen's work, like most new artists, via Instagram (@CONSIDEREDMAG) and instantly appreciated her work. With the onset of Autumn I've been increasingly drawn to darker images, cosiness and the natural decline of nature with leaves falling already and colder weather coming in. The images I've chosen to accompany our talk are from her Ephemeral Beauty collection which touches on themes of renewal and decline, visually inspired by Memento Mori - perfect for Autumn.
What lead you to focusing on botanicals as your subject matter?
I have always been drawn to photographing the natural world, it is something that started with my Land and Seascape Photography obsession in sixth form! During my time at university we were encouraged to experiment with and try out as many different photographic genres as possible and I soon noticed that even in my Portraiture and Fashion work large amounts of plants and natural elements were always present within the frame. So when the time came for me to decide on a genre and a creative direction for my work, Botanical Photography was a natural fit for me and it is a choice I haven’t regretted since!
"you are seeing history and evolution in action.."
You’re based in Norfolk, do you find that being so close to beautiful nature spots has impacted yourself, work and subject matter?
Yes! I have lived in Norfolk my whole life, so being surrounded by woodland and beaches in equal quantities has definitely impacted and driven my creativity from an early age. I love the fact that I can venture to the coast or to the woods and quickly become immersed within a natural environment that has been a constant point within the world for centuries and hopefully centuries to come, you are seeing history and evolution in action! It is always in these places that I feel the most inspired to start photographing and making work.
Femininity is an underlying theme throughout your work, what would you say your personal version of femininity looks and feels like?
To me, flowers and plants are the natural embodiment of the qualities that I believe to be present within my version of femininity. For example, although the wider majority of society may take them on face-value, with their somewhat delicate and fragile-looking exteriors, there is an internal strength that promotes behind the surface, with years of careful evolution allowing very complex and intricate surviving systems to emerge. First and foremost, they are focused on their own survival, with every choice they make fuelled by the aim to sustain and improve themselves, adapting and hopefully championing their surrounding environments. It is in this contrast between a somewhat falsely perceived fragile exterior and the internal strength and focus hidden beneath the surface, that I find my own personal embodiment of the definition of ‘Femininity’.
What are your tools of the trade?
In the past I have worked in both Analogue and Digital, switching between the two depending on the visual aesthetic and emotional feel I was aiming for within the project, although the majority of my work seems to be captured in a Digital format now. This is because the fastest turnaround of Digital Photography allows me to act on my ideas more quickly, allowing new projects to emerge within a faster time scale. Also, I find Digital Photography to be a better way of developing my technical knowledge. Technical knowledge is an important part of Photography and is something that is always altering and growing within the industry as new technologies and styles of Photography are forever emerging, with each new project requiring a different skillset and technical focus behind it .
Although saying this, I would say that the majority of my work is driven almost entirely by aesthetic and the research that I am conducting at the time, and digital technicalities behind my work are simply that, in the background: a way of producing my vision. Within my project ‘Ephemeral Beauty’ I wanted the diverse structures and textures of my subjects to be a prominent part of my work, so I ended up working with a 35mm f./2.8 Macro lens for the majority of the images, which allowed me to get in closer to the plants and flowers, drawing the viewer in the picture’s frame to focus on the smaller, more intimate sections of the specimens.
What do you wish for people to take away from your work?
My work through the research process can become quite personal to me, with my Photography often proving itself as a method for me to work through the ideas or perceptions that I have about the surrounding world, therefore it is not entirely crucial to me that the viewer fully understands and relates to the work on completely the same level, it would be an impossible and fruitless task as no two people perceive something exactly the same way. But I would like for my work to inspire other creatives to follow their passions and what interests them, and perhaps make someone take a closer look into the amazing natural environments that surround them and give them the opportunity to seek beyond the beautiful face-value of nature, finding something deeper.
"seek beyond the beautiful face-value of nature, finding something deeper"
You began your master’s degree this September, where do you hope to see this and your work taking you in the future?
Doing a Masters in Photography so close after finishing my Degree was something that was incredibly important to me, because it will hopefully give me the time and space to develop my work and my understanding of my practice further. I felt that postgraduate study was the key for me to be able to achieve a more secure and refined understanding of my practice and what motivates me as a creative. I already have some exciting things planned for the start of my upcoming year of study. For instance, towards the end of my degree I started to experiment with printing some of my photographs onto fabrics, as I was looking for a more physical application for my work rather than just being a digital image, this is something that I would like to explore and refine further within my Master’s. I now believe fabric to be too closely related to the delicate exteriors of my flower imagery, therefore I wish to contrast this instead, perhaps by looking into a way to begin to present and print my imagery onto harsher, stronger materials such as metal. In terms of my research, I wish to look further into conservation and preservation within my work, looking into the Environment laws that are in place to protect our surrounding natural environments and how these came about. I have the feeling it is going to be a busy year!
All images provided by Ellen Grace