I recently discovered the work of photographer Ellie Davies, whose work has opened up a whole new perspective for me on how the forest setting can be used to great effect within still images.
Her approach is very immersive and involves spending time getting to know and feel the forest before starting work on an image. Talking about her process, she says ‘each series will start with walking, sketching and note-making. Walking allows me to familiarise myself with different areas of the forest and select places that suit each image I am hoping to create. I carry a lightweight kit and I usually sit for a while to get used to the space before starting work, listening to the birds and seeing how it feels to be there. You start to hear the leaves falling and the trees creaking’ (Bradbury, 2016).
She then spends hours hand making or painting props and attaching them to the trees, before capturing the perfect image. The resulting shots challenge the viewer to ‘consider mankind’s relationship with nature and to explore our cultural perceptions of forests in popular culture, folklore, literature or film’ (Bradbury, 2016).
Fig. 1. ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ 2010
Fig. 2. ‘Stars’ 2014-2015
Fig. 3. ‘Come With Me’ 2011
Fig. 4. ‘Between the Trees’ 2014
The magic within her work is in ‘her knack of turning reality into a dream-like vision that verges on hyper-reality’ (Bradbury, 2016).
In some of her projects she introduces elements into the scene, such as clouds of smoke, painted trees, fern pathways, or even galaxies of stars, superimposed over forests. There are no people or animals in her photographs. The landscape itself is the character.
In her artist statement, she explains how her work ‘explores the ways in which identity is formed by the landscapes we live and grow up in’ (Davies, n/d) and that the landscape images she creates ‘are a reflection of my personal relationship with the forest, a meditation on universal themes relating to the psyche and call into question the concept of landscape as a social and cultural construct. Most importantly they draw the viewer into the forest space, asking them to consider how their own identity is shaped by the landscapes they live in’ (Davies, n/d).
Like Davies, I too am interested in identity and how it is formed by the environment in which we live and grow. I like the way in which she creates images that are reflections of her personal relationship with the landscape. I also like the way she describes her work as ‘a meditation’ on universal themes. In some way, I would like to create moving images that do the same: that reflect my interest in identity and place; that are reflections of my personal relationship with specific places; that are meditations on universal themes.
Looking back at my first assignment and follow up research on the cultural meaning of forests, I think this could add a new dimension to my approach when working on new projects. Particularly in terms of creating moving images that challenge our perception identity and place.
Bradbury, N. 2016 ‘Ellie Davies’ In: Sodium Burn [website] At: http://www.sodiumburn.com/interview/ellie-davies
Davies, E. ‘Statement’ At: https://elliedavies.co.uk/statement/
‘Stars’. In: Lens Culture [website] At: https://www.lensculture.com/articles/ellie-davies-stars
List of illustrations
Figure 1. ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ 2010
Figure 2. ‘Stars’ 2014-2015
Figure 3. ‘Come With Me’ 2011
Figure 4. ‘Between the Trees’ 2014