We are very photo-loving generation. Not that I am flattering us that we are some kind of new age inventors but we are likely to catch The moments better than ever. Seems that these days the good girls are the ones who are writing diaries and those that are having fun are making photo diaries. Maybe I am just hopelessly romantic, hearing melodies playing for me while I am looking at some images.
Fashion Photography nowadays is on new level, besides it's a pure art, we became more demanding by asking for a story. We are not satisfied any more with the ability to pair a combination of Valentino and Blass while some super popular girl of the moment is striking a pose.
This may be the reason why I singled out Elisenda Russell. Elisenda, a Barcelona and London based photographer, with a wide portfolio and several successful exhibitions behind her, is a real story-maker with a snappy eye for detail. You can feel that with a first glance at her photos. Her ability to awake the feelings and senses of such a demanding generation inspired me to interview the eye behind the camera. Charming Elisenda talked to misslikey blog about her beginnings, why her city Barcelona is sometimes a fairytale, on her daydreaming, visions, inspirations, people she works with.
Where did the love for photography come from?
I've grown up in a richly creative background, granddad was a successful photographer and dad was a talented painter when he was young and also has produced some inspiring photographic images. My mum has a contagious flare with colors, a natural talent with interiors and a Hispanic style, and then there is my younger brother who produces music, so I had a strong base to grow from. I remember taking snapshots with a fisher price click and scroll plastic blue brick camera as a kid and just before the end of Art foundation I took some photos for a self-proposed photo project on an English beach with a friend at sunset and felt the rush of inspiration grow from then on.
So, you were a kind of self-taught learner when you started, or did you have someone to mentor you, to learn from?
I think it was a bit of both: self-taught and university study. I only really discovered my own style at the end of my degree when I lost my voice on and off for two years, due to having nodules on my vocal chords (something many singers get), this was a very trying time, but also a very valuable part of my learning process when I found ways to speak without words and project this through my images.
How much in your opinion does European culture, or Barcelona, and the trips to London that you mentioned, influence your work?
I live in a very beautiful part of Barcelona where most moments walking around my area feel like I've stepped into a fairytale. The buildings look like they are gift wrapped in embossed wallpaper, with the type of colors you would find in an ice cream stall, the sweet sound of buskers playing the theme tune of Amelie combined with the under current of Latin passion that pulsates at the rate of butterfly wings. That in itself fuels the romance in my images.
Since living away from London when I return it's like my eyes are reborn to the beauty I had been blind to for so many years, I find myself inspired by things that use to pass me by.
When you are photographing, are you the more planned type who has a vision of their picture in mind or are you more spontaneous, combining emotions in the moment?
After hours of daydreaming, the vision comes; and alongside it the narrative with which it combines to form the foundation. Then comes the unplanned emotion and the natural moment that can only be captured in the magical seconds in which the image is created.
From what I saw, even in those photos where I can feel an obvious underground or edgy vibe you are still able to stay romantic. How do you manage that?
My love for photography is a passion to capture and produce beauty in moments... past, present or daydreamed. I like mixing textures, backgrounds and styles, sometimes looks that would generally clash, creating something striking and unique.
I've noticed a lot of energy and movement in your photos thought they really have serenity, from my point of view. How is that?
In the midst of a photo shoot, the energy that is present produces a great impact on the day itself, creative inspiration, music, a mix of personalities all in a new location that haven't met before and may not meet again. I guess the serenity you feel is the point where the shoot has gone through some high emotions and energy levels and has stabilized, almost like the calm within a storm and that's usually when my best images are born.
I've noticed among other things, your eye for a detail; do you style the set by yourself?
I do all the styling for my photos from start to finish. I find that it is a very important way of creating the atmosphere of the final image; I use the styling of the image like an artist does paint. Details are an essential part of the image; they all have a reason for being there.
And please tell me where do you find those charming clothes and fittings you use in your photos?
Most of the bits I use are treasures I have collected over the years from all over. Most weeks I visit an amazing second-hand market called "Encants" in the centre of Barcelona, where I discover one-off antique gems that give my images the perfect final touch.
Do you like doing editorial work? If so, are you more likely one day to be with the Vogue photography based on Avedon or Newton or the Testino tradition which obviously mixes glamour with fashion; or is your heart closer to ˝the other ˝, edgy scenes like Nylon presents or Lula's vintage vibe, or do you feel you can fit in with anything?
I don't think the work I produce is strictly glamour or anywhere close. I love mixing old derelict surroundings, places with character and history with edible colors and romantic touches, textures and props; one of my best mates once described this as pretty gritty. I discovered Lula magazine a year ago and completely fell in love with it. I think my work speaks the same language as Lula does; it would be a dream to see my work published in there. Here's to dreaming!
You mentioned an exhibition in Barcelona? What was it about?
I had a title for a project in mind for a while and usually I produce the work and then make up the title but this was a new way of working for me as I really had to make sure the images related to the title "Traces of You". At university I took images entitled "Missing Me" of lost property at the London lost property office. The idea was to document detailed photos of the objects and the marks left by the last owner and its unknown history. I find it intriguing to think that every object owned by someone has its own story and after that project I felt the project was open ended and knew that someday I would pick up where I left off and complete it.
The exhibition "Traces of You" was focused on producing images of emotions, situations, spaces where loved ones passed and the impact the trace of the memories leave. The images were mainly of objects and stills that had a strong sense of nostalgia. It was important not to show too much detail of anyone in the images of people, as I wanted to keep the images personal to me and allow the voyeur to have freedom to imagine the story behind the photo. All of my other work is more fashion/music based and shows the entire person.
The project was collaboration with a wonderful photographer Mona Souli, one of my closest friends who took a slightly different angle on the title "Traces of You", pepitofilm
And about inspiration; someone is inspired by piece of art, movie or song, or city. What inspires you, do you have phases, things that consistantly inspire you through some part or period of your work?
I have phases like anyone creative when I'm overloaded with inspiration and everything and anything can trigger off an idea for a photo like music, people, a glance, the tone of light a vision or days where I have a kind of writers block but in terms of images. The close knit group of friends that surround me are a bubble of inspiration, they help give me guidance and clarity in my life.
Is it annoying sometimes to be the friend photographer? I mean, when you are with your clique and hanging with your friends, are you the one that takes photos all the time?
Sometimes, I like to disconnect if I'm at a party and I am the main photographer. I miss the "real" moments when I am wearing my photo-glasses. When I work I like to feel completely absorbed, immersed in a time zone where I can lose myself.
I've heard Karl Lagerfeld once said something like 'photography is amazing because it's impossible to return to the time, the moment...' Do you sometimes think about that, when you for example take a photo that satisfies you as an artist, do you sometimes feel kind of blue because of the lost moment?
No, everything is in the past unless it's not happened yet in which case is in the future so to feel sad about something that is past would feel non-conclusive. I feel sad when I look at more personal photos, like my family album, as the nostalgia takes over and feeling like I'd like to re-live a moment in my past. I feel happy looking in my portfolio, to see the progression and that I have been lucky enough to capture moments that were lived.
And about future, any wishes for your work and career?
Firstly, to keep producing new work and to communicate it through exhibitions and by publishing in the magazines I respect. I have just finished a 2 year stint with an edgy Barcelona magazine. Besides providing creative direction, I used the opportunity to publish a string of themed shoots that lifted the magazine into a new league. Now I'm on the hunt for a role with a magazine that is already on the right wavelength, where they already 'get it'. Being with a like-minded team means that things move so much faster.
Geographically I'm casting beyond Barcelona, collaborating with an ever wider set of designers, musicians, artists and DJ´s around and beyond Europe. I'm at one of those thrilling points when you are more aware than ever that the future is sparkling with options.
Special thanks to Elisenda for the interview. She was very pleasant to work with. For contact and more of her amazing portfolio visit elisendarussell.com