October 07th 2008 by Andrew S Gibson
Not only is Elizabeth Cecil a talented fine art photographer, but she’s lucky enough to live on beautiful Martha’s Vineyard. I liked her wonderful photos so much that I asked her to take part in an interview:
How would you describe your photographic vision? What kind of look/atmosphere/feel do you try and create in your photos?
The world that we see in pictures isn’t always the world as we know it through our eyes. I want others to see the world that I form through the lens and through the subjects that I photograph. There is an ephemeral quality to my images that coincides with the themes of memory and nostalgia that I explore in my work, especially most recently. I want to create an atmosphere that invokes a sense of remembrance. Making beautiful images that give my viewers a feeling of intimacy as well as creating a mood and carrying it throughout a body of work, is something I always strive for.
Your work is very creative. Where do you get your ideas and inspiration from?
I am an observer, so really everything around me. My relationships, the places I have lived, and the things I surround myself with. The experiences in my life and my memories have a strong place in my creative process.
When did you start taking photos and why? What made you decide to explore photography as a means of artistic expression?
I started making images when I was around 8 years old. My first camera was a blue Fisher Price. It took 110 film. My dad and my brother-in-law are both avid photographers, so they introduced me. I took my first darkroom class in high school and I was hooked. I was photo editor of the school paper and had my own darkroom which was pretty unique. I think I have always enjoyed the process and the magic of it all. Seeing an image emerge from the darkness. It is really a special experience, one that I still get joy from every time.
Tell us a little about the alternative darkroom processes that you use in your work. What attracts you to these processes?
I love the painterly quality of alternative processes. Mixing a light sensitive “paint” and coating paper to make an image. It is a merging of the two mediums which creates immense possibilities. It can provide the opportunity to make a one of a kind image which can be kind of a rarity in photography. Its historic nature is also very appealing to me. This is how the first photographic images were ever made and I love being able to experience what pioneers like William Henry Fox Talbot and Sir John Herschel once experienced.
How does living on Martha’s Vineyard influence and inform your work? What themes do you explore with your photographs?
I grew up in a city, so being in such a rural environment is very different. There is a wonderful community of people here and one that really supports the arts. We are limited in terms of our accessibility to things, so that proves to be a challenge. You really have to go off island to access supplies, lectures, museums and to keep informed on what is going on in the art world. I think this is important for any artist, to be aware of the contemporary art world because it is often very different from what is outside your back door.
The themes I tend to focus on in my photography are ones of memory and nostalgia and often have to do with home or the spaces that we live in and make our own. I usually have a very emotional attachment to my work which I then try to universalize so that the images or themes are not only appealing to me, but to a greater audience. I have started to photograph the landscape a bit which is not necessarily a regular theme of mine, but hard to avoid when you live in such a beautiful place as Martha’s Vineyard.
Name three photographers or artists you like and why.
Sally Mann. Her images are powerful and evocative. She is an amazing print maker and a poetic writer. Her images always move me.
Wijnanda Deroo. She creates incredible, vivid images with amazing colors and a wonderful quietness. I appreciate that her images can tell their own story with no figures involved.
Emmet Gowin. An extraordinary photographer and teacher. He lays the groundwork for the idea of family and home life as a subject which I really admire.
Where is your photography going? What future photographic project or projects are you excited about?
I have been working on a project for a little over a year, photographing interiors of houses. Mostly vacant spaces or rarely lived in summer homes. I transitioned to working in color for this project which has been an interesting path and one that I think communicates these images more successfully.
How did you get involved with the Artist in Residence program on Martha’s Vineyard and the Maine Media Workshops? What attracts you to teaching other photographers?
I was a former student of the Maine Media Workshop as well as a teaching assistant in their Professional Certificate Program, so continuing to be a part of such a great institution was always a goal of mine. I am delighted to teach foundation courses, including Black and White Crash and Vision and Discovery which I think are essential to any aspiring photographer.
Likewise, I am really excited to be part of the Artist in Residence program at The MV Public Charter School which invites members of the community to come in and teach in areas of their expertise. This year the program has grown, adding two high school sections to the original eighth grade program.
I really enjoy teaching because it keeps you excited and challenged. I love the discovery that can happen for someone when they see the possibilities of photography. Especially the young photographers, they continue to amaze me with the images they make and their lack of inhibition.
You sell prints through Etherington Fine Art, an art gallery in Martha’s Vineyard. What advice would you give an aspiring fine art photography who would like to sell their work through a gallery like you? What does it take to succeed?
You have to be committed and serious about your work. If a gallery is going to take you on, you have to be prepared to present new work on a regular basis. Be organized and professional. Being an artist is not just being creative. It is a fifty/fifty job, making the work and marketing it. Most of us have to juggle many jobs to get to do the work that we love the most which is our art. Probably the best advice of all is to persevere.
And finally – what’s the most interesting or unusual commission you’ve ever received?
A client of Etherington Fine Art was very fond of my bug jars. She asked if she could commission me to make her a spider to go with the black fly that she bought. I thought that was pretty great.
These photographs are from my current project which is still in process. I enjoy these images because they give you glimpses into people’s lives, the things they hold precious, their secrets, and the place they call home. Sometimes things and places are so recognizable, they could almost be our own.
All photos Copyright © Elizabeth Cecil. Please contact the photographer for permission to use in any way.
Like this article? Stay updated and subscribe by RSS or email.