PP: How did you get started in the photography business?
ED: I was given a camera at 13, and then when I was about 16, I took an interest in SLR photography and started doing photography in high school. And that led to short courses I did at the ACP.
I went to art school and since a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography, post-grad diploma in photography, and am completing a PhD.
My special areas of interest are fine arts photography and higher education. I’ve been a lecturer in photography and commercial portraiture.
PP: So what do you most enjoy about professional photography?
ED: Connecting through art imagery with other people is what drives me the most. Having the courage manifest that into a professional exhibition, and then engaging with the public is very exciting.
With education I really like to excite people about the idea of fine arts photography, on what they can do and what they can express.
PP: And how would say you’re different from the competition i.e. other photographers?
ED: I’m not in competition with anyone. I have my own unique style. And it’s up to people whether they connect with it or not. I’m not out there hunting down the business and competing with other photographers. People have generally sought me out for commercial work based on what they’ve seen in my exhibitions.
PP: So if someone was starting out, what advice would you give them?
ED: You have to have a passion; you have to love it, really. I personally couldn’t do it if it was just about business and making a living. You have to have quite a passion, it has to excite you, otherwise why would you be bothered doing it?
PP: So over the last 25 years, what significant changes have you seen?
ED: The biggest change was going from analogue to digital. The content of what people do hasn’t changed. Although digital technology has meant that there can be more special effects and more fantastical things, but you could do that anyway with other means before.
Getting out of the dark room and onto the computer was the greatest change in my photographic life.
PP: And with people running around with iPhones and cheaper digital cameras, everyone thinks they’re a photographer.
ED: Yeah, absolutely, that’s another point. But I think the quality is diminished because of that and we now accept lower quality images.
PP: There’s a huge difference between taking a photograph and actually framing something correctly.
ED: Oh, absolutely. And I’ve been teaching for 25 years and I that’s what I hammer home to people, that we used to spend hours and hours and hours in the dark room or on the screen now on one image. We’d spend all day on it; analysing it, pulling it apart, perfecting it, going out re-shooting it, doing it in different lighting, changing the angle of the perspective or the tone or the contrast.
It’s a craft to make a good picture. It requires a lot of intelligence and a lot of technique and it’s worth doing well. So it’s quite hard to get a really high quality image and I teach that to people and I think that once they’re in that situation of understanding it, they see how hard it is.
PP: So what do you see as the trends in the business? What do you think the next 10 years will bring?
ED: I have no idea. I can’t really answer that question. Everything’s moving so quickly. I would just hope that people still remain true to good content and good technique. A good photograph needs to communicate something to someone else, so all of those things are going to remain the same no matter how the technology changes, but I honestly don’t know.
PP: Well cameras are getting cheaper and the quality is getting better, but that still doesn’t take away the art of creating a good image.
ED: I’ve been saying that all along because as a teacher I would get people coming into my class with the latest camera and I just look at them as a new toy. So what if it’s got X amount of pixels more or the lens is even better and faster. It makes no difference ultimately and you can see that from the iPhone. I’ve been taking great pictures on my iPhone and putting them on Facebook because I love it, it’s like this really fun toy.
But it’s all in the composition and the lighting, as far as I’m concerned. People are amazed and go, “I can’t believe you took that on the iPhone” as they’re used to crummy pictures.
So as a teacher I know the tool is irrelevant. Sure, it’s nicer to have a better quality, you can do more with it and you can print larger, but ultimately you have to understand how to craft an image and what makes a good photograph is not just point and shoot. That’s just rubbish and there’s a lot of rubbish out there.
Unfortunately now, there’s more rubbish than there was before because with film you could have 36 bad pictures, but now you can have 3,000 bad pictures, and some poor person has to sit and look at them.
PP: You have a new exhibition coming up in August?
ED: Yes, I’m continuing my series “Under-12, Under-20” where I photographed all the boys in my son’s football team 7 years ago and have just re-photographed them with the images displayed side by side. It’s showing at the Stills Gallery, 36 Gosbell Street, Paddington, between 29th August to 29th September 2012.
PP: You shot this on film didn’t you… why was that?
ED: Well the original series, Under-12 was all shot on film and I wanted to replicate the same look and the same quality, so I used the same lighting set-up, same studios, same boys. And I did shoot on digital as well, just for a back-up, but it’s just not the same.
In the first series seven years ago, I printed the work in the darkroom myself and with this series, I also processed the negatives, proofed them and did my test prints myself in the darkroom this year. But then I went over to Pixel Perfect and had them scanned in. I was really very happy I did that because I couldn’t actually get the same quality in the darkroom that I can now get on the paper stock I’m using and the way they’re being printed. So it is actually a superior print product for this exhibition.
PP:. So why do you use Pixel Perfect to print your images?
ED: I really enjoy working with Pixel and I really like the team. All the people I know there are gorgeous, Kate and Steve; and I find Jo really professional and very attentive. She’s made beautiful prints for me; she’s always got the time to sit down with me as I’m pretty fussy. Jo and I go over prints in fine detail and do lots and lots of test prints. She’s very accommodating.
And in my whole experience of working with commercial labs, Pixel is the only lab who is willing to sit and talk or spend time creating quality work for the fine art market.
I’m not a major player in the commercial market and I found if you weren’t a big client bringing in lots and lots of business most labs really could not care less and weren’t interested in your personal wins or projects. So I find that is a huge difference.
Pixel is the first lab I have come across in my whole career that is willing to pay attention to me. I send my students along there as well and they are very happy with the results Pixel produces. So I would recommend them very highly.
PP: Ella, thank you very much for your candid views and all of us at Pixel wish you every success for your exhibition.