EWW: Most all of you work is in black & white or sepia, rather than color. Why?
Ellen: I am an architectural photographer. I believe that for architecture to be seen and most appreciated, black and white and sepia tones are the best media. The monochrome medium allows the focus to be solely on the subject: architecture. I love color, but for me color distracts from the building’s lines and form.
EWW: Besides subject matter, are there any other consistent themes in your fine art photography, such as lighting, technique, type of shot, etc.?
Ellen: Light and dark values are always important in my photography. I love shadow and highlights and the way that light plays over the surface of architecture. Perspective is also critical for me as a photographer. By choosing the vantage point of my shot carefully, I can create a unique perception of a commonly photographed icon, like the Empire State Building. My well thought out perspective gives my choice of subject a new context to make it my own photograph and not a replica of commonly seen images. The theme of architecture, both human-made buildings and natural, such as mountains, trees, etc. has always threaded my work together. Along with place and time, the art of architecture appeals to me. As far as technique goes, I shoot a subject many times so that I can be sure I get a good image. I work from different angles, distances and heights to get the best and most interesting photograph I can get and I also may wait until the light changes for other effects light creates on the building. Understanding my equipment and my goals when I do a photo-shoot is extremely important, too.
EWW: Ellen, if someone were asked to make a comment about your work as a whole, what do you think they would say?
Ellen: I think that people recognize my work because it has a distinctive look. They also may comment that in addition to photographing architecture, which itself is an art form, I also put my own imprint on the architecture I photograph. People often comment that I make them “really see” what is there because my photography focuses on the many details that give the architecture its character.
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EWW: What would be your comments about your work, as a whole?
Ellen: My work as a whole is my life’s work that remains my passion.
EWW: This is very subjective, but when does a photograph become a piece of fine art ?
Ellen: I have done many commercial photo-ops in addition to my own fine art architectural photography. These commercial shoots include the subjects of food, resorts, restaurants and bars, jewelry, flowers as well as architecture. The difference between my fine art photography and the commercial photography I do is that commercial photography focuses on the subject only. If, for example, I photograph a restaurant, I must 1) please the client and 2) motivate people to go to the restaurant. My opinion of the restaurant does not matter. When I create a fine art photograph, it is all about my feelings for my subject. If I am photographing a restaurant as a fine art photograph then maybe I’ll make it a shadowy image and only show a table for two. Therefore I’m presenting a romantic setting as art. For the client I can use shadow, but not to hide the other 10 tables, the bar, the dessert cart and crystal chandeliers. That is the difference between art and commercial/snap-shot photography. One tells the artist’s story and the others are images only of what the camera’s shutter captures.
EWW: You have been a juror for competitions before. What do you see as the most difficult part of judging?
Ellen: The most difficult thing about judging is choosing one wonderful artwork over another. I bring to the competition a very open mind. Typically viewing artworks brings new ideas that sometimes are useful in my own work. Therefore, I find it hard to make the choice among so many of the wonderful submissions. Ultimately the decisions I make may often come down to composition or technique.
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EWW: You have many different types of subject matter. Is there one subject matter that in particular that draws you to that subject matter?
Ellen: I love architecture that represents place and time. I have done photographic essays about Harlem, Germany, Brooklyn, India and many other locations. These photographic essays are comprised of images that will give the viewer a sense of being in the location through the architecture of the place. I like to create images that represent the community through architectural art and design.
EWW: How do you market your work?
Ellen: I exhibit my architectural photography and my fine art architectural photography trademarked novoimago® in galleries and museums. There have been reviews of my photography by such prestigious publications as the New York Times and PDN, which created both interest and sales. My photographs are published in poster art by Bruce Teleky, Inc. and my photography has been published in numerous books and magazines. This generates print sales. I also put myself out there to speak at various photography tradeshows, such as NYC’s PhotoPlus, which is great because that gives me a chance to meet people, especially other photographers and collectors. I do photo tours around NYC on occasion and freelance as a photography instructor. I also do portfolio reviews and assist other artists with their statements and resumes. By helping others, I can always have a feel for the current market. Linkedin and other social media also are helpful. I am affiliated with several commercial agencies and publishers that purchase my photography and provide photo-ops for me.
EWW: Do you incorporate social media into you overall marketing strategy? If so, which social media platform works best for you?
Ellen: I find Linkedin a very good resource for information and contacts. Twitter and Pinterest are also valuable for web exposure. My Twitter account is linked to Face Book as well. I blog @ ellenfisch.blogspot.com and respond to the blogs of several photographers and cultural arts people, too. And, of course, Instagram is good for web exposure and fun, too.
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EWW: Ellen you have been a good friend to Exhibitions Without Walls. Just to wrap up the interview, do you have any final thoughts about you and your work, that you think would be important for others to know about?
Ellen: The most valuable advice I can give to others is the way I approach my own photography and art: never give up and take as many opportunities to grow as possible. I have stayed with photography for many years even when times were tough. I always tried new equipment and techniques to advance my work like incorporating fine art media into my photography with gold leaf, which I trademarked as novoimago®. When I think about all the opportunities that came my way, I am delighted that I took the chances I did and allowed my photography to change and develop along the way.