Ellie Young - East Trentham
Photographer Ellie Young is fascinated by the detail of things – the structure of a fly’s wing, the inner shapes of a halved onion, the ‘skeleton’ of a shell.
She rarely photographs people, declaring herself “no good at people or landscapes.”
“For me, it’s all about organic things – bugs, flowers and working close up with Nature. Small intimate things draw the viewer in,” she says.
Ellie became hooked on the intimate detail of the macro world when she studied applied science photography at RMIT – this after first studying at the Photography Studies College in Melbourne, followed by a double major in photography and business at Monash University.
“Studying applied science photography was the best time of my life. I had to look at a fly’s wing under a microscope and I was hooked from that moment. A whole ‘otherwise unseen’ world opened up for me.”
An equal passion is the renaissance of many traditional photographic processing techniques – the craft of photography she calls it – which says have an endurance beyond the “fast and furious” digital age.
“With traditional techniques, you make all the choices, you have all the controls, and every image is completely unique. I love the fact that you don’t just snap an image. Making a photo is a creative process when you use these old techniques,” she says.
“Processes like cyanotype for instance, don’t require a dark room and can be as simple or as complex as you like. And cyanotypes produced in 1842 are still very stable.”
Recognised internationally as a skilled practitioner of traditional photographic processes like albumen printing, gum bichromate printing, ambrotypes, calotypes, salt prints, chrysotypes and daguerreotypes to name a few, Ellie is particularly passionate about four colour carbons and printing on metal. She is, in fact, one of only about 30 people in the world working on a regular basis with this technique.
She has been running workshops (while simultaneously producing her own exhibition work), for almost twenty years and has recently been teaching and exhibiting in China.
“One of the beauties of four-colour transfers on metal is that you never know what you’re going to get. It’s my obsession and I’m always experimenting, always pushing the boundaries to see what’s possible. Working on metal gives you a beautiful relief – you can feel the image with your hands. It gives you a depth you can’t achieve with any other process.”
Ellie established Gold Street Studios (and gallery) in Collingwood, in Melbourne in 2000; and she and her husband moved the business to East Trentham in 2005. Her studio/workshop space and gallery is in a former engineer’s workshop, next to their home which was originally the old East Trentham Post Office . Their move was prompted by a desire to leave the busy gallery life, and for Ellie for focus more on her own work, while running an extensive programme of workshops on the handcrafted photographic techniques.
“I want more people to appreciate these traditional skills and discover how easy most of them are to learn - and to practice at home."
It was in her own home in fact, that Ellie first became fascinated by photography. Born and raised in Dunedin, New Zealand, she was a lighthouse-keeper’s daughter and spent many years living in remote, isolated places like Dog Island in Foveaux Strait.
“My father always took photographs to document our family life and where we lived, and by necessity he processed those himself in the pantry. Looking back, I was always there with him and after I left school I worked for Kodak in Dunedin in the days of silver gelatin and then at Campbell Studios, doing black and white printing in a dark room.”
She and her own family, finally settled in Australia in the late seventies after touring Europe, and it was a drive to “do something she loved” that set her on her own professional photographic arts career.
Today she is Australia’s pre-eminent alternative process photographer and teacher. She runs Gold Street Studios with husband Alan, who does conservation framing. She has exhibited widely, won multiple awards and has work in many private and public collections.
“I love my darkroom. When I am working on my own it provides me with solitude and a sense of excitement when the outcome is successful.
“I love my darkroom when I am teaching and sharing the wonderful handcraft of photography. Watching students find that sense of excitement in creating a photograph that they made with their hands. That’s the best thing.” - www.goldstreetstudios.com.au