November 6, 2012

Elena Moncrieff's Interview

" I would encourage everybody who has a true passion for the arts, or anything else, to keep pursuing it. Even if it may not have prolific outcomes short-term, you will see that sticking to it can bring a wonderful balance in your life. I guess that the most important thing though is to stay true to yourself, and if you cannot put your heart in it, take yourself out of it."

"Shadows in Silence"

"Beau Fixe"
Model Tonya

Dear Elena, how did you get into photography ?

It started as a very spontaneous, creative process. I would suddenly feel this urge to express an idea, an emotion, and I would have the exact image in my head.

When trying to repeat a certain shoot, to improve it in some way, most times I would fail in doing so – the first capture would always be the ‘best’ out of all. When it comes to photography I tend to act more on feeling than on thought, so everything has to come natural, almost unconscious, if you like. Otherwise, it can be very noticeable when you try ‘too much’ ; the spark disappears and that spoils it.

You can't imagine how I understand what you mean !... Did you learn photography in a special school ?

No, but I sometimes wonder how different my photography would be having studied it ‘by the rules’. As any discipline, I think I would find it slightly restrictive. I am mainly a self-taught photographer and that gives me a lot of freedom, not only to do how I please, but it also frees me in finding ways to improve my technique. I have a tendency for trying to outdo myself, and so I gladly take in any constructive critique of my work from those who specialize in the ‘science of photography’. I guess it is this kind of feedback that got me where I am now, and I appreciate the fact that I still have a lot to learn. I’m pretty eager about it !

"Hidden Place"

Who are your greatest inspirators ? Your favorite photographers ?

Because of my love for portraiture, I always found Francois Benveniste’s work intensely dramatic, emotionally expressive and powerful in its intimacy – a true inspiration.

Pavel Kiselev is another one whom I admire for the theatrical quality of the sets he chooses, not to mention his models’ intricate poses and uncanny expressions.

I also developed an affinity for Adoniram Sides’s portrayals of landscapes – he personifies nature giving it a poetic quality, and makes you look at it with different eyes, appreciating it on more humanly terms.

Others, perhaps more widely known, are Malcolm Pasley – a genius at giving female nudity a magical dimension, but also Sally Mann, whose photographs have a unique way of exploring identity, maturity, and self-exploration. These are just a few of my favourite contemporaries. Old legends include Minor White and Brassai with their cinematic photographs. There are many photographers out there whose work appeals to me in so many different ways.

"La Dispute"

How long could you be far from your camera ?

Not long, I noticed this recently when after weeks of not being able to shoot, switching my camera on and taking photos again, was like a breath of fresh air. It usually gives me a great sense of usefulness and worth, and it is something I love investing my time in. I suppose that this feeling will always stay with me, and that’s a great thought already.

"Swan of the Soul"

A good feeling... This one of a true vocation. Do you feel particularly inspired by a type of location ?

Various splendid outdoor locations inspire me, but, funnily enough, I never actually got round to taking that many pictures with models outdoors.

A room usually inspires me though. It is intimate and private, and it’s where my artistic portraiture actually started. You can get all sorts of ideas between four walls ; I don’t think it limits you, it’s a matter of creativity.

What are your preferences, indoors maybe ?

I feel more comfortable creating indoors ; I find that the focus on whoever I take a photograph of is much greater than outdoors where there usually is a lot more going on, with lesser control. As for lights and colour, it depends on the message that I intend to send. I really enjoy playing with natural light, especially if it comes from a skylight, or a window. Colour-wise, I do love sepia and the subtle tonality that monochrome offers to create a moody and sometimes cinematic ambience.

"Heart Comes First"
Art Model Lucy

Could you define your style ?

“Expressive”, “emotive”, “graceful”, “feminine”, “surreal”, “dramatic”, “multi-layered”, are all traits that others have attributed to my work in the past, and which are very, very dear to me.

My heart just grows whenever I hear those words. Although I am slightly reluctant in defining my own style, I guess one could ‘define’ it by that amalgam of attributes. It is every viewer’s different interpretation of my work that I am interested in. Someone once described my photography as “haunting in the way it captures emotions”, or “powerful yet subtle”... What more could I ask for ?

"What Your Soul Sings"
Model Tonya

And they're right. I'll add "poetic".
I saw your photography is not mostly nudes ?

No, there are very few. What I do is mostly emotive/conceptual photography that will express a feeling, or a thought. It is ideal that it sends a message, or that it has some sort of story at core. In a similar case, whenever the thought strikes, I prefer creating artistic nudes that show not just a nakedness of body, but a nakedness of emotion, be it anxiety or longing, vulnerability or strength ; although sometimes the intent can change from presenting a bold statement, to merely showing the human form in an artistic light.

What is your process of creation ?

Paradoxical though it may sound, it’s a very ordered chaos. If one were to see me during this process of creation they would probably gasp at the mess around, but I know the only order is in my head, hmmm – or maybe not ! I get so focused and excited about taking the idea out of my head and on the screen of the camera that I don’t care about anything else around. Cleaning up after always makes me smile though.

"Prism of Life"
Model Tonya

What are your favorite themes ?

Freedom, passion, serenity, innocence – there is something pure, unadulterated about these motifs that has to be fought for and preserved, in my world at least. And through portraying them, either as being there or missing, I try to emphasize their importance in life – freedom to develop one’s potential, passion with which it is expressed, inner serenity, and innocence of feeling, that sort of thing. Perhaps you can call those themes?

Of course, and I love them ! How do you feel at the end of a shooting ?

A sense of relief is always there, like my job is done : I did what I *had* to do, and the aftertaste is usually one of satisfaction. I feel liberated by the experience, and excited to see the end result !

Have you a special project, some challenges you're dreaming about in a next future ?

The only challenge I have for the future is to stick to what I am doing right now, keep improving myself, and keep growing with it. I am not one for making big plans for the future ; I just want to keep pursuing whatever I am passionate about, and keep listening to that inner voice, see where that takes me.

As Denis Diderot said : “only passions, great passions, can elevate the soul to great things". I find the chap inspiring in my quest.

Model Tonya

The "inner voice" is also one of my favorite sound. No writing without it... Have you scheduled your next exhibition ?

I have never had one, but who knows what the future will bring ?

Magic ! Is there a book to come ?

Heh, that is a nice thought, and if it turns into a dream, it is a far away one. The idea of a photo book tickles my fancy though, something that would hopefully draw both the viewer, and the reader in, into a magic of words and images.

"Throwing All My Thoughts Away"

Model Tonya

Have you another passion ?

Oh yes, I am highly passionate about theatre, film, music and creative writing. I have an in-depth knowledge of them, and practice in theatre and film, along with photography. They all work hand in hand together really, and my intent is to make the viewer, reader, or spectator feel *and* think, imagine whatever I present to them. That balance is really important and sometimes difficult to achieve, but sticking to it usually does the trick, with very satisfying results !

Maybe a message to send ?

I would encourage everybody who has a true passion for the arts, or anything else, to keep pursuing it.

Even if it may not have prolific outcomes short-term, you will see that sticking to it can bring a wonderful balance in your life. I guess that the most important thing though is to stay true to yourself, and if you cannot put your heart in it, take yourself out of it.

That's about it, Chris, I tend to get a bit carried away which is why it might be a tad too long, but then again, you're a writer so you know how that goes !

Thank you once again for this lovely opportunity, great to be among such wonderful artists !

You're very welcome Elena ! This space is also yours.

"This Could Be Heaven"
Model Tonya

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