Interview: Michelle Ellis Frees Her Soul Through Dream-Like Portaits

Life's heartaches can often be overwhelming, but Michelle Ellis discovered the trick to lifting the weight off her shoulders and keeping her soul light. She finds it personally cathartic to capture surreal scenes through the art of photography. The conceptual photographer developed a stylistic portfolio rich in colors and haunting silhouettes that look like a fantasy world straight from a dream.

The stunning landscapes and foggy forests around her home in British Columbia have served as the perfect environment for her mysterious portraits, showcasing her close friends and family as the subjects of her creative vision. Michelle set to creating a place to escape from life's challenges and in the process has succeeded in inspiring her audience with her artistic expression. We can't wait to see what the future has in store for this young photographer.

We were thankful to catch up with Michelle for a Behind the Lens look into her creative process. Scroll down to read our interview with Michelle and learn more about her work.

Can you tell us a bit about your journey into photography?

Photography has always been a way for me to escape reality. I began taking photos at around the age of 13, and I took photos of anything and everything with this tiny pink point and shoot I received for Christmas. I was awful at first, but that didn't stop me! It was a way for me to distract myself from life's heartaches and I really enjoyed doing it. Eventually that was the only thing I spent my time doing, just creating images, mostly by myself.

What's a must-have in your gear bag?

I always have my 50mm f/1.4 with me. Always. If I lost or broke that thing I would be devastated.

In addition to photography, what are some of your interests?

I love painting and drawing. I've been drawing since I was very young. I'm always listening to music and searching for new musicians on Spotify. I also enjoy modeling.

The locations you use are magical, where is your favorite place to shoot?

I don't know if I have a particular favourite place. I suppose if I had to choose I would say Alouette Lake at Golden Ears Park. Every time I've been there, it's always been such a magical experience, and of course I always bring my camera when I venture out there.

What is your favorite time of the day to shoot?

In spite of me not being much of a morning person, I would have to say before sunrise! I don't often do photoshoots at the crack of dawn, but when the opportunity comes around it's so calming and so wonderful.

The series is made of some incredible silhouettes, how do you achieve that look?

I do a lot of shooting in the evening, when the sun is just beginning to set, and I shoot with the sun behind my subject. I photograph my younger brother quite frequently at this time.

How do you find your models?

I typically photograph only my closest friends, my family, and I do a lot of self portraiture. I'm always best at being creative when I'm comfortable with whoever I'm with.

How much planning goes into a shoot?

Usually, not too much. Most of the time I just pick up my camera, have my outfit of choice, and I'm off to find a nice spot for a photo. Other times I'll have a vivid picture in my mind that I want to bring to life. Normally I'll write down this idea immediately so I can remember it for later when I have time to set up my shot.

What challenges have you faced while creating?

Sometimes, my challenge is not wanting to create anything at all. I recently went through a difficult time in my life, and during that time, I'm certain I didn't even touch my camera – or even my paints, for months. It was extremely frustrating. I really wanted to make something so that I could let out these feelings as I usually would, but I just couldn't. I had no inspiration, or motivation. I used to shoot practically every day. However, I've made a few changes in my life so I've been slowly getting back into the swing of things.

How much post-processing goes into a completed photo?

It depends. For some photos, I'll spend less than five minutes adjusting contrast and sharpness, and other times I'll spend an hour or more putting together a photo, if I'm doing an expansion combining several different images together and then perfecting the colours and everything.

How would you define your style?

Many times I've been asked this question, and honestly I'm still unsure of how to describe my personal style of photography. It's sort of a lifestyle, dream-like, slightly conceptual kind of style.

What message do you want your photographs to convey?

The images I create always have a little bit of myself put into them. Sometimes when I'm completing a photo, it feels like a release of energy, like my soul feels a little lighter when I make something that I've put a lot of feeling into. There's generally no real message I'm trying to convey, it's always just been a way for me to express myself.

What are your plans for the future?

As of right now, I still have no clue. I would very much like to travel someplace and take magical photos with my sister or a close friend. I don't know if I want to go to school. For now, I'm just focusing on myself and what I need right now. The rest will come when it needs to. I'm in no rush.

Do you have any advice for aspiring photographers?

Find out what it is you like to photograph the most and don't stop doing that! If you don't know what you like to photograph, just experiment. Try setting up a tripod somewhere and take self portraits, or find a friend, get them all dressed up and go adventuring in a forest. Try setting up your own studio, and play with different kinds of lighting. Go hiking and photograph landscapes, and nature. It can be anything!

Thank you so much Michelle! If you would like to see more of this creative photographer's work, check out her Flickr!

Are you a photographer? Would you like to be interviewed for the Behind The Len series? Leave your links in the comments below!

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