friday feature: ellen silverman

I'm happy to re-introduce to you Ellen Silverman and her stunning work. You've seen her photographs among the pages of many magazines, ads and cookbooks (and subsequently, many design blogs). Originally from West Hartford, CT, this photographers calls New York City her home, where she lives with her husband Josh and son Luca.

Her client list is extensive -here are just a few of the impressive clients she has worked with:




Not only is her work inspiring, but so are her words.
Here is our interview, for you:

01. When did you first become interested in Photography?

When I was 14 my parents took me to an exhibit of Cartier Bresson's work at the Stueben Gallery in NYC. I was mesmerized by the images. They were playful, evocative, soulful and told stories. His work made a great impression on me, but it wasn't until many years later that I took my first photography class. While working in the restaurant business in Philadelphia, I would frequently visit a photography gallery around the corner and that is where I was introduced to my first black and white photo class. Several months later I took a leave of absence and spent 3 months in an intensive photography workshop at The Maine Photography Workshops. I was extremely fortunate to have two teachers Kate Carter and Craig Stevens who encouraged and supported me in my desire to learn and create.



02. How does your job affect your family?
I live in New York City with my husband Josh and our son, Luca, who just turned 13. My family is extremely supportive of my sometimes erratic schedule. There are many challenges and benefits to having a freelance career. The main disadvantage is that I have had to make choices over the years between taking a job and missing school events. One of our many pleasures besides cooking and eating together is traveling together. However, walking around with a camera up to your eye while sightseeing "en famille" has lead to a few instances of losing one another as I have stopped to photograph something and they have kept walking. After the last mishap where I lost them for several hours in Paris we have learned to establish a meeting place!



03. What equipment did you start shooting? And what equipment do you shoot with now?
My first camera was a Minolta 35mm. Soon after a dear friend gave me a gift of a Fuji 645. The first 4X5 camera I owned was a beautiful wooden Wista 4x5 which I dragged along with me on a 3 month trip to Guatemala. I travelled with another photographer and it was quite a site to see us setting up our 4X5 cameras with our dark cloths over our heads! I loved working with my 4X5, there is something magical about being under that dark cloth and composing a picture. For the last 3 years I have been shooting with a Hasselblad with a P25 back, I also use a Canon 5D.



04. Do you miss film?
Yes, I do miss film. But I have come to love the work flow of digital. I have found this way of working to allow for a lot of improvising and compositional freedom. The immediacy of the process allows me to quickly view my images and to keep "playing" and composing. Over the last few years I have been very fortunate to work with an incredible assistant. Kevin being a recent grad of RIT is a whiz kid of the digital world. He has spent many hours creating a sensible digital work flow, archiving images and teaching me to function in this new digital world.



05. You've shot some beautiful interiors. What is the most difficult thing about shooting interiors?
Finding your angle and making sure your interior and exterior light is balanced in a natural and convincing way. When I walk into a space I spend time walking around, keeping my eyes moving, trying to find a new angle and not to shoot from the obvious place. Whether I am shooting an interior, a still life or food I am always trying to push myself to see something new, to find a different and unexpected point of view for myself.



06. What client has been your favorite to work with?
Some of my recent favorite projects have been a catalogue for a German company, Primivera. The AD was very open and willing to explore. I also recently worked for Target. They were a delight, very flexible and, appreciative. A few weeks ago I finished shooting a cookbook project with Gwyneth Paltrow which was a real treat. We had a fantastic team, everyone was extremely collaborative, talented and dedicated to making beautiful images.



07. If you could shoot for any client, who would it be?
An ideal job would be to shoot a catalog for Neiman Marcus or Bergdorfs as well as to do a project for a high end hotel.



08. What type of images do you strive to shoot?
I strive to make images that feel as if someone just walked away, you can feel a touch of a person, a human element, a presence. My son Luca said, "I like your work because it just feels as if someone is there - like someone just woke up." I think we all have our place of comfort, and compositionally we all go to that place first. i am always trying to push myself through that, so I enjoy working with people who are motivated to do that as well. During the past year I have been testing with an extremely inspired San Francisco based stylist, Suzanne Rubin. We like to block out some time together, sit and discuss ideas, eventually coming up with a concept to shoot. Together we play and work in a very focused way until we look at each other and know that we have got the "right" image.



09. What inspires you?
Visually the things that inspire me are objects and places , just as I find them. A few summers ago we were in Sicily and I walked across the street to explore an abandoned villa, a crumbling building from the late 1800's. This was a treasure for me, I spent the early morning hours alone walking around shooting, praying that I would not fall through the floor. What intrigued me was that the villa still retained the sense of someone's presence lost in time.
The first place I seek out when I travel are the local market places. I am fascinated by how people arrange their goods, what they sell, their postures and the social interaction among buyer and seller.
I'm trying to be more spontaneous with what I shoot. To that end I have begun carrying my camera with me every day to use as a sketch book. When I take a picture and feel content, knowing that I have completely pleased myself, well this is a feeling that is worth everything to me.



10. If you could photograph any place, person or thing.... where/who/what would it be?
I'd like to be left to roam around Versailles in all of it's public and private spaces!



11. What advice can you give other photographers?
Keep your eyes open. It's not the camera that takes the picture, it's you. Always keep shooting and work with as many people as possible. Look at photography and art books, go to exhibits, listen to music, cook, find something every day that visually inspires you. As I walk down the street, I look up, there is often a surprise waiting. Try to ignore what other people are doing and focus on your own desires and wishes. It’s much more interesting!



Did you find this interview interesting? Leave a comment for Ellen for a chance to win the soon-to-be-released Dam Good Sweets -photographed by Ellen. (Sun at midnight deadline)

add to sk*rt

39 comments:

Millar said...

Great interview! Thank you

Victoria (Everman) Klein said...

Wait ... what!? She's from West Hartford? That's where I'm living now ... small world! I have her on my "favorite photographers" list too - lots of irony here.

Great interview as well - it is always fun to see how different creative minds think.

Heather said...

I love the Friday features for the inspiration and hope they give me as beginner that maybe one day I can do it too! Thanks Ellen!

Fanglord2 said...

Wonderful interview and accompanying pictures. I love her philosophy of wanting to make it look as if someone just left the room. Beautiful.

Jill said...

I loved this interview. I was just browsing her portfolio yesterday after she was linked on GOOP. She has beautiful work and I love what she said about each photograph having a human element.

abby said...

lovely.

JanetH123 said...

We take for granted photos in magazines and cookbooks and simple Sunday ads. But when you really pay attention, some photos just grab hold of you. And it's lovely to be reminded that talent is real and your experience is highlighted because of how it affects YOU.

los jones said...

those s'mores look so good!
the peonies are beautiful as well.

glad you brought this back.

Tania said...

her photography is stunning. it's always so inspiring to read features like this.

mustardandsage said...

I always loved your Friday Features and am so glad to see they're back! I particularly love Ellen's interior shots; she captures the light in the rooms so beautifully.

beth altrogge said...

i'd love to know what photography gallery she visited when in philly...
love her work, and the fact that she continues to push herself and stay motivated.
beautiful.

Martha said...

Wonderful interview! Thanks Nicole for these great interviews! You're the best :)

missy said...

This might be my favorite interview on here Nicole. I loved her photography advice.

And the types of images she strives to shoot for is exactly what I felt when seeing all these images.

Tartelette said...

Love her work!
What a fantastic interview! Thank you!

erin said...

Fantastic interview! It inspired me to begin a new photo project!

AlliSMiles said...

What beautiful work. Hope I'm that good one day!

raquel raney said...

i always look up...

very inspiring interview. thanks for sharing.

Jen said...

I love her description of shooting as if someone just left. That is such an apt description. Inspiring.

Matthew said...

What a wonderful interview. I have to admit that I found myself chuckling at some of her responses because I've thought or felt the same way. For instance, I am constantly losing my family while walking about. They, too, have learned to just walk on.

Ellen's work and words are truly inspiration, as is your writing. Probative questions without seeming the least bit cliche or invasive.

Brava!

Christie said...

I love her work - there is a vivid spirit that jumps out of the pictures ever so gently. Great interview.

Molly said...

She gives her son's name as Luca, not Lucas.

Mike and Dejah Morris said...

I really enjoyed this interview,especially all the advice she gave. I'm hoping to find something beautiful to inspire me everyday, as she said. Thank you!

the emily said...

I love these images. It's so interesting to read these features and find out more behind the genius of photography. Thanks!

Nicki C K said...

Wow, just wow. Simply stunning images! SO inspiring. Thank you for sharing! Thanks for the chance to win such a lovely book!

Antonia said...

I just found the blog this week. I was so inspired today by your friday feature...I think my favorite line is "It's not the camera that takes the picture, it's you." I'm going to put that up somewhere. Thanks Ellen for being my inspiration today!

Living and Loving In L.A. said...

Awesome interview! Her pictures are so enticing and beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

Jan said...

I love that last image. So much.

Greeneyes said...

That is a beautiful introduction to some very soul-stirring work. Thanks for sharing, Nicole.

missy said...

I love these interviews so much and I love her point of view, so inspiring!

Jessica Reeves said...

Wonderful interview and I love all of her pictures! What an inspiration!!

Angela Lundberg said...

I would love to see through her eyes for a day! She has made so many beautiful images.

Christina said...

I love all of her advice and will take it to heart. Thanks, Nicole.

{b} said...

Probably my favorite Friday Features! So inspiring

Cassidie Anne said...

So cool!! She has really great advice

Katie said...

Beautiful work!!!

sarah goodman said...

LOVED this interview and her style! YUMMO!

jenjafarzadeh said...

this is such a lovely interview — thank you! so enjoyed reading more about Ellen. I've been lucky enough to work with Ellen several times on shoots. Not only is she super talented, but she's a treat to work with. I always walk away inspired.

Minnie said...

I love these interviews and this one was a treat. So much inspiration even for a non-photographer like me.

Sari said...

I've just found this interview and I love it. Ellen's photography is a feast for the eyes and her work is so inspiring! Thank you for sharing!