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When fine-art photographer Ellie Davies was a child, she and her twin sister
would walk through the woods with their mother, a painter who helped them
enjoy sights and sounds discovered through silence and awareness.
Years later, while pursuing a master’s in photography from London College
of Communication, the Dorset-based artist realized how much she missed
the ancient woodland of Southern England and wanted to reengage with it.
She did so for her final thesis in 2008 that explores what she describes as “the
fine line between reality and a constructed visual fantasy.”
Davies, not ready to leave her arboreal studio after graduation, has spent
the years since expressing the relationship humans have with the woods. She
uses the tools of a keen eye and, at times, pools of light or materials that alter
the terrain like smoke, paint and wool.
“For me they’re landscape photographs that I’ve made some sort of
intervention in, and the idea is that [viewers] impose their own narrative,”
Davies says. “People have very different reactions to my work. Some find
it quite uplifting and joyful and other people find it sinister and dark and
unnerving, and I love that variety of responses.”
Her experimentation has resulted in diverse bodies of work that share a
common thread. For her 2012 “The Dwellings” images, she photographed
structures she made out of forest materials. “I was interested by the idea
I could build something and it was mine, and then come back a month or
two later to photograph them and they’d become their own entities,” she
says. “They weren’t mine anymore. They had become slightly sinister, I think,
because they’d taken on a potentiality of
The artist interposed forest landscapes
with images taken by the Hubble Space
Telescope for her 2014–2015 “Stars” series.
And for her 2016 “Half Light” work, she
divided the frame between the woodland landscape in the background and
the river in the foreground, accentuating the gap between the two elements.
Davies doesn’t usually light her work and says she likes “that sort of
softness you get from unlit environments.” She also prefers to shoot either
when it’s raining or at day’s end. “That helps me get that lovely contrast
between the light areas in front of the image and then the dropping away
to darkness at the back,” she says. In post, her editing is minimal—she might
adjust color cast, for example, or remove something that interferes with the
Humans don’t appear in her images, but their presence is implied, she
says, alluding to French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre’s parable about the
“watcher in the park” from his book Being and Nothingness. “It’s the idea you
can be alone in a space and it feels a certain way and then somebody else
enters and it completely alters and skews your whole perception of that
space,” Davies says. “I loved the idea I could explore that in a woodland setting
just by the very implication that your mind can’t help but imagine there’s the
presence or the possibility of somebody else.” EDU
by MINDY CHARSKI
Ellie Davies on her otherworldly and philosophical forest scenes.
THIS PAGE: Davies used
imagery captured by the
Hubble Space Telescope to
add a dose of wonder to
her “Stars” series.
SPRING 2018 • PDNEDU.COM 15