Behind the Photograph - Ellie Davies

Photography on a Postcard is back for its second year as the official charity partner of Photo London. The exhibition includes over 500 photographs - each an edition of 1 - generously donated by world-leading photographers.

Photographer Ellie Davies has kindly contributed to this year’s auction. We met with her to discover more about her work and the stories behind her photographs!

Ellie Davies - Between the Trees 14, 2015 - EllieDavies.com

What makes a great photograph for you?

Looking at the images on my studio wall I am trying to work out what makes some of these images ‘great’ to me.  I think it’s very personal.  Some images become great because of their ability to return to you or stick in your mind.  You might not realise it at the time but they take on a resonance over time, even becoming more vivid in the memory.   For me it is usually landscapes that do this, its hard to pinpoint why one image might particularly strike you but I think its often the colour palette and composition, a visual way-in to the image and a narrative that is more likely to be outside the frame or in my head than in the image itself.

Tell us about your process - How to you choose the location of your shoots? Do certain forests or woodlands hold special significance for you?

I usually go to the woods with an idea in mind and then I walk or cycle with my camera on my back (and tripod on the bike rack). The bike is a new development and allows me to travel further, but I usually end up parking up and walking as the slower pace allows me to see the woods better. I’m usually looking for specific types of trees, dense cover behind the foreground,  I tend to work in overcast weather and I choose locations based on particular colours, size of the trees,  depending on the time of year.

The New Forest in the South of England is where I make the majority of my work.  It does have a particular significance for me since I grew up there. The landscape is hugely varied and ranges from heathland and moors to farmed pine forestry and ancient woodlands ; it has a seemingly infinite number of interesting places to work.  I was familiar with some of the forest through childhood walks and bike trips but since working there such a lot over the last 10 years I’ve discovered so many more amazing places.  I try to get off the trails, away from people and into the heart of the forest.

What is your personal relationship to forests? Why have you worked with them throughout your career?

This relationship has been formed over a lifetime of spending time in the forests around my home, growing up with my twin sister, playing, building dens and dams, exploring, those first experiences of independence tinged with a little fear.  Later I’ve spent time in the woods making my work, foraging, walking, rock climbing and more recently camping with my small son.  It is without a doubt where I am most happy.

The moment you enter the forest it affects you profoundly, you have to slow down, to look around.  I always sit down when I first get to the woods, listen to the birds and try to settle into the surroundings but there is always an extra level of awareness, sometimes a snapping twig brings a rush of adrenalin.  This mixture of pleasure and fear is what I find so compelling and brings me back again and again.

Your photographs touch on the relationship between man and nature, transforming the forest into a studio. What do you want the viewer to take from your images?

I hope the viewer can experience an atmosphere in the woodlands I photograph and wrap their own narrative around that.  I love how differently people respond to my work, some finding it beautiful and uplifting, others deeply disturbing.. its all about what the viewer brings to the image.

Do you have any exciting projects coming up you can tell us about?

I have begun working on a new series in the last few weeks.  It's still very new but I am shooting early in the mornings and at dusk in low light and mist.  I want to go back to the atmosphere I was talking about earlier, the beguiling tension, rooted in childhood, between beauty and fear, the desire to explore and to be alone.

Ellie Davies - Half Light 4, 2016 - EllieDavies.com

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