Elizabeth James is a fantastic photographic artist. Her work is cool, hip and I think it has a nice, British flair www.elizabethjamesart.com. I had a great time chatting with her about her work and inspiration.
MICHAEL: Hi Elizabeth, First off, you are super-talented! You seem to be all over the map with your photography. What do you like about photography as an art form?
ELIZABETH: Hi Michael, thanks so much for your kind words! Photography as an art form has no boundaries. It is the variety of expression and outcomes that are available through the use of a camera that appeals to me. The ability to take control of the camera and having the freedom to create the desired effects and all the beauty you discover by mistake along the way. It’s like one big adventure.
MICHAEL: Judging by your website, you don't seem to be interested in focusing on one genre within photography. You're all over the map. Portraits, still lifes and even highly-artistic, manipulated, smoke works which seem like paintings.
ELIZABETH: They say variety is the spice of life! I find many different subjects interesting to photograph. Personally, I think I would get bored if I shot purely flowers or smoke or people, beautiful as they are! Last year, I really got into portraits and shot some lovely nudes for my exhibition, 'Form Follows Function.’ The smoke swirls are exactly as I saw them at the time, no manipulation of form. They fascinate me as their form is constantly changing, beautiful and graceful. I once shot one that resembled a spinal column. I've tried to get it again, but as yet no joy. I need variety of my subjects! There are too many beautiful, interesting, mesmerizing, wonderful things in the world for me to limit myself to one genre.
MICHAEL: When did you first take up photography and how did you make the leap from being a photographer to being an artist?
ELIZABETH: I have always been a photographer at heart. I studied foundation art and design and specialized in fine art in my mid 20’s. My tutor felt I was stronger at photography than painting or drawing, which at the time, was hard to hear, but these days now I am concentrating on my photography and making progress. I take his comments as a compliment.
I also studied interior design. Throughout it all, photography has always been there. I have been pushing to get my work out there and progress as a visual artist since 2006 where I started working with models. Hassan Reece, a model I worked with last year for my 1st solo exhibition 'Form Follows Function,' has now gone on to do London Fashion Week and several other big name campaigns in the UK. I am very proud of him as it was his first ever shoot. I am now part of the Debut Contemporary Collective in Nottinghill, London and a photographer for Giclee Link Art Publishers who sell business to business (galleries, museums, hotels etc).
MICHAEL: Tell me about London. I love Cool Britannia and I have this image in my mind that it's a very cultural, hip, art-filled, world class place ... apart from the crime.
ELIZABETH: Ha Ha! Yes apart from the crime, it’s lovely. This time of year, it’s mostly grey outside, but to brighten things up, there are some really great galleries over here with some wonderful exhibitions. I recently visited The Whitechapel Gallery and saw the opening of an exhibition by British artist Zarina Bhimji. Her photographic works, including large-scale film installations, documented landscapes and buildings haunted by their layered histories, are the main focus for this body of work. Not too far away is the Brick Lane gallery. I exhibited there early last year and of course there is Debut Contemporary in Nottinghill where I will be exhibiting soon (as of this interview) as part of the group show with some really outstanding artists. There are many other galleries to explore and the UK has some lovely sights to see.
MICHAEL: What is your process? Do you create art every day? When do you work? Do you map out plans and then take photographs or what?
ELIZABETH: My process varies and I spend lots of time editing. I constantly have ideas for shoots. I will shoot for something specific and at times I capture things impulsively. If I have an idea for something and can make it work in my mind, I know it is possible to capture that shot in that way. Then I will put it in to practice and adapt as I go to get the image I need.
So, at times, it’s planned in my head first; at others, it’s in the moment.
I am currently limited on space, so have to do what I can with the space I have. I create almost every day. It just depends on my work load and commitments. It can be very frustrating when the creative urge comes and you simply haven't the time to stop and create for you. But that's usually my incentive to push ahead.
MICHAEL: What does creating art mean for you? What does it give you that you couldn't get (or give) otherwise?
ELIZABETH: For me, creating art means to be free. It stimulates my brain and feeds my soul. I am able to express myself on a different level. When I create it sharpens my senses, makes me feel alive, it gives me a sense of accomplishment. Creating allows me to dream and share my interpretations of my chosen subjects. When I look down the lens, I notice more, I take in my surroundings. I feel excitement and often can’t wait to get to my shots on a big screen after I shoot. I love the colours, shapes, textures, patterns, tones, shadows ... the list is endless. I like being able to share with others and bring to the fore things that are easily missed or taken for granted.
MICHAEL: I love visiting big international art fairs and I've noticed that photography is almost on par with painting. What do you think about this?
ELIZABETH: I think it’s great and as it should be. Photography has had a long battle to be accepted as an art form. There are so many different threads to photography as there is painting and I do think it’s a great thing to see it showcased alongside paintings and illustrations as well as an art form in its own right.
MICHAEL: Indeed it is … especially your work. Thanks Elizabeth. This has been fun.
Check out Elizabeth’s fantastic work at www.elizabethjamesart.com.