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MA Photography grad scoops Magnum Photography Award

Stars 5 copy
Stars 5 copy
Stars 2014-15 by Ellie Davies
Written by
Jake May
Published date
04 October 2017

Ellie Davies, a graduate of LCC’s MA Photography course, has won a Magnum Photography Award for her series ‘Stars, 2014-2015’.

The series, which won in the Fine Art Single Image category, explores Ellie’s desire to seek balance between a relationship with the wild places of her youth and a pervasive sense of disconnectedness from the natural world.

A majority of people today live in urban or semi-urban environments and experience the landscape from a distanced position, mediated through technology and various media. From this viewpoint the notion of the landscape in all its sensuous materiality, our being within it rather than outside it, seems beyond reach. The series addresses this distancing by drawing the viewer right into the heart of a forest which still holds mystery, and offers the potential for discovery and exploration. Ellie’s exquisite work considers the fragility of our relationship with the natural world, and the temporal and finite nature of landscape as a human construct.

We caught up with Ellie to congratulate her on her award win, find out what inspires her work, and discuss what she is up to next…

Words by Jyoti Mann

Hi Ellie, congratulations on the Magnum Photography Award! What is the subject of the series?

Mature and ancient forest landscapes are interposed with images captured by the Hubble Telescope of the Milky Way, Omega Centauri, the Norma Galaxy and embryonic stars in the Nebula NGC 346. Each image links forest landscapes with the intangible and unknown universe, creating a juxtaposition that reflects my personal experiences of the forest. This being its physicality and tactility set against a profound and fundamental otherness, an alienation that separates us from a truly immersive relationship with the natural world.

Image from Ellie Davies’ Stars 2014-2015 collection

What processes were involved in putting this work together?

Unlike all my other bodies of work, ‘Stars…’ uses layering of digital images to create the final result. The initial forest landscapes were captured using a conventional digital process. I then used different elements of images taken by the Hubble Telescope to create the forest starscapes.

What inspires the kind of work you produce?

I love to be in the woods and in any sort of natural landscape, this is always the inspiration and the starting point of my work.

 What was the highlight of studying during your time at LCC?

The constant process of examining and challenging my process and practice. During the final summer of my two year part-time MA I abandoned all the work I had made during the course and began making landscape photography, it was a wonderful turning point in my practice, and I have never looked back.

What are you currently working on and what is next for you?

I am currently working on a new series and shooting near my new home, in Wareham Forest, Dorset. I have shot a great deal over the spring and summer and will spend the winter working on the series, before hopefully launching it next spring.

Stars 2014-2015 by Ellie Davies

What advice would you give to those thinking of applying next year?

Experiment as much as you can – this is your time to be free. Don’t let yourself get bogged down or rigid in your practice, try to be open to all kinds of ideas, challenges and influences.

Where do you see yourselves in 10 years’ time?

I never plan ahead or set landmarks for myself. I think this adds unnecessary pressure. It’s the work that motivates me rather than specific goals, but I love finding out where it takes me and just trying to enjoy each new opportunity as it reveals itself.

Quick fire question round:
Dream collaborator…

Japanese artist Nobuhir Nakanishi

Top 3 dinner party guests dead or alive…

Joe Simpson, Haruki Murakami, Cornelia Parker

Favourite exhibition…

Twilight: Photography in the Magic Hour at the V&A in 2006

Check out other work by Ellie on her website.