We all have artists we love so much that they can do no wrong. Directors that can’t create a film you don’t love, writers that publish book after book that steals your heart and painters that seem to be deeply connected to your inner self. For me one of those artists is English photographer Katie Eleanor.
Katie’s work emphasizes on telling stories with strong narratives, never telling one that doesn’t touch me. Her enchanting, Pictorial-influenced style is another thing I can’t get enough of, it’s a perfect match to her often dark yet somehow strongly romantic storytelling. You can imagine how delighted I was to speak to Katie, and I’m happy to share her insights on influences, processes and inspiration with you today.
Hi Katie! If you had to tell somebody about your work and are only allowed to show one photo, which one would you show and why?
A portrait of a muse; it contains a real portion of my heart.
Your series always have a very strong narrative. Do you create all your stories yourself? And speaking of, are they picture stories only, or are you considering writing them down as well?
I do, my characters float all around me day-to-day. I want my photographs to be able to do hand-in-hand with words. Some stories start as words and others as images some have 10 images to one line of narrative and others are pages of words to one image. I always allow the tale to tell itself to me.
Your series Saint Wanderer’s Hospital is quite intriguing: a fictional tale birthed from your need to find splendour in the idea of sickness. Can you share a bit more about the background and process of this particular series?
The initial idea came a month or so after my Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) diagnosis, I was struggling and desperate and had little to lose. I felt betrayed by my mind and truly very scared. Creating Saint Wanderer’s Hospital was important therapy for me over the year following, regardless of how critical I or anyone else can be about the outcome, the process of making it helped me to regain some sense of control over my sense of self.
There seems to be a revival of the soft, dreamy images once mastered during Pictorialism in the last couple of years. Your own work, but also that of Ellen Rogers and Nicholas Hayward for instance, has a deep connection with the romantic storytelling that Pictorialists did so well. What do you think of this revival? Could this be a reaction to the raw and real work that the rise of digital photography unleashed?
Perhaps, everybody needs their voice. Pictorialism is something I have studied and feel deeply connected to, it is a way of thinking I understand. I am grateful to be surrounded my other artists who perhaps understand this way too, or at least elements of it. I am not sure if it has any significance but, like anyone who creates, it is reassuring to be understood and to understand others’ creations.
You shoot your photos on film, in black and white, and color them by hand when developed. Can you share a bit on how you discovered this technique? Do you know what colors you are going to use when you shoot the images, or is that something you decide later?
Frustration with the restrictions of photography (i.e. my surroundings), an illustrative influence, and an intrigue with the power of perception led me to start hand colouring. The first time I tried, I spilt paint on my mama’s cream carpet and spent the afternoon scrubbing it out. It varies image to image, sometimes I can see the painted colours through the viewfinders, sometimes I have to spill paint on the print and hope.
What’s the best museum or gallery exhibition you ever been to, and why did you pick this one?
A few years ago, I was invited to a private visit to the Gordon Museum of Pathology, which usually blocked from public visits, to wander and write. In those hours I met many soft souls, they would only hum as they were hushed through embalming fluid.
You are a part of the World Wide Women Artist Collective, a powerful group featuring talented artists like Aëla Labbé and Shae Detar. Can you tell us about the collective, and how you became a part of the movement?
We are sisters who celebrate each other and the feminine spirit; I met WWWs leader (Anouska Beckwith) in London and was asked to join, I was already creating amongst the other women.
If you could pick one artist, dead or alive for a collaboration, who would you choose and why?
Currently Duchenne De Boulogne for how much I could learn, for building more stable bridges between the earth and my thoughts.
With social communities like Instagram, Facebook and Flickr around it’s almost impossible to not have an internet presence. How important is the internet for you as an artist?
I am incredibly grateful for the friendships and creative connections I have made online, truly without its influence I am not sure with whom or what I would be creating.
Last but not least: can you recommend a book, movie or artist you’ve enjoyed lately?