Elizabeth Ireland is a 23 year old fine art photographer from Massachusetts. She will graduate in June 2014 from the New England School of Photography (NESOP) in Boston where she studies black and white fine art and creative imaging photography. Elizabeth previously studied Graphic Design at Cape Cod Community College until 2012, but left after two years to pursue an education for her love of photography.
Elizabeth is currently working on two self portrait photographic projects: “Mirroring My Shadow”, which uses black & white film and focuses on Carl Jung’s theory of the shadow self, and “Land & Sea”, which uses digital photo manipulation to create photos about being homesick from Cape Cod. Images from ‘Mirroring my Shadow’ have been featured in exhibitions at the Panopticon Gallery in Boston, MA, The Center for Fine Art Photography in CO, and the Darkroom Gallery in VT.
Laura Knapp: You are currently working on two bodies of work, each centered around self portraiture photography. What made you decide to use yourself as your own model, as opposed to using other people?
Elizabeth Ireland: I love photographing other people, don’t get me wrong. I have been taking “selfies” since I was about 14 years old and realized when I was 16 that these could be something bigger than just for myself. I find that when taking self portraits the emotional connection to the work in the end is much stronger than if I just used a random model. The cathartic release that comes out of making self portraits is very therapeutic as well.
LK: As a self portraiture photographer myself, I frequently wonder if my self portraiture unfortunately seems like an odd form of narcissism to the viewer. Has self portraiture ever made you feel as if you were trying to prove your beauty to others? Or do you think that people may just have a hard time critically looking at themselves as often as self portraiture photographers seem to do?
EI: I don’t feel that self portraits in general are a form of narcissism. Personally, I have never felt like I was trying to prove my beauty to others, but I am sometimes nervous that other people will think that I am. If anything, I am trying to prove my beauty to myself and make myself feel beautiful in a photograph.
LK: You originally went to school to study graphic design after graduating high school. Do you think studying graphic design has altered your photographic eye or photographic attitude?
EI: I do! I think I have an eye for design and that has helped me a lot with placing things inside of the frame, especially with my black and white work. It has a lot to do with the design of the space as well.
LK: Since you learned Photoshop years before ever stepping into a darkroom, do you feel like your creative imaging project or “Mirroring My Shadow” is more important to work on? How have the projects influenced each other?
EI: Personally, neither is more important to work on for me, but my creative imaging project is physically easier to work on because I can sit down at a computer whenever I want. I unfortunately have to rely on the darkroom at school to get my black and white work done. I love photoshopping, I could do it for days on end. I love the darkroom as well (even the smell of fixer). Nothing compares to the magic you feel when your photo comes up on the paper in the developer. Both projects are self portraits, and both are a way for me to get my emotions out on paper. Both are fabricated realities, where nothing is as it seems.
LK: I understand that your self portraits are a form of therapy and release when it comes to how they affect you, but how would you like these self portraits to be perceived by the viewer?
EI: I would like the viewer to take away whatever they want from them. I hope I can make someone feel something, if anything at all. I hope that people think my work is beautifully and flawlessly executed. I don’t really appreciate when people call my work “creepy” but I understand why they say that to an extent.
LK: You will be graduating photography school in less than a month…. many people seem to believe that attending an art school is unnecessary because of its price and the lack of business education it provides for its students. Do you have any insight on attending an “art school”? How has school affected your photographic projects?
EI: I don’t know about other art schools, but I believe that NESOP has pushed my creativity to its limits and I love everything about that. I have never felt this creative for this amount of time in my entire life. I tend to have creative spurts where I create a lot of work at once that I am happy with. Then I won’t create anything that I am semi-happy with for months. While going to NESOP, my creativity has been very consistent for the most part.
If I could give any kind of insight on going to art school, is yes, it is expensive and it can be very hard most of the time. But if you really love what you’re doing, you are passionate about it, and you have the drive, it’s worth it in the long run.
For more of Elizabeth Ireland’s work please visit: http://www.elizabeth-ireland.com