Eleanor Owen – Featured IPA member
I love reading about people who were given cameras as children and ‘WHOOSH” that was it! The photography whoosh visited me much later in life. Coming from working class South Wales, I spent most of my childhood bunking off school, making rope swings and generally creating havoc for my grandmother. Nobody really had a camera.
If there is one thing that I can pinpoint as a catalyst for creativity in my mad childhood and adolescence, it is a memory of a person seeing in a different way. In the town in which I lived, we played ‘Cowboys and Indians’ in the street. I remember lining up alongside my friends to be selected for the ‘goodies’ or the ‘baddies’. My grandmother came racing out of the house, with a cigarette in her hand and yelled, “Listen, if you are choosing goodies, then don’t forget they are the Indians”. This was 1970s Britain and everyone knew cowboys were the goodies then! She married a black man in a time when public notices read, “No blacks, no Irish, no dogs” and whilst she was completely embarrassing when I was a child, it is her crazy bravery and creative way of looking at life that continue to inspire me and I believe, is my hook when I need the courage to look for that road less travelled. It is a road I am now beginning to explore through my camera. It is a new road and I am very much a beginner, but I want to learn more on this journey.
A Punk during the late 70s, I worked in design, making clothes for…other punks.
After having two sons and morphing into a replica of my grandmother, I went back to school, studying English and Education at Cambridge. It’s here that I fell in love with the Romantics, especially William Blake and his poetry. He was a catalyst for a creative change in literature because he dared to see things differently. I admire greatly those artists who have this vision; I am in awe of what they see. Blake in his day and contemporary photographers of today, they keep this vision alive. Wordsworth once advised a young poet, “If you feel strongly, trust those feelings and ‘your work’ will take shape”. Nothing changes, those visionaries are still inspiring us all, prompting us to find what we lost when we grew: the ability to see the ordinary as extraordinary. As a teacher, I know children do this easily. When in Myanmar recently, I took a photo of a young boy. I showed him the shot and he started running about the place yelling in Burmese and laughing. His father told me that he didn’t realize he was bald and was excited to become a monk soon. Magic!
I teach overseas, I have lived in Saudi Arabia, West Africa and am currently in Borneo for the next few months. I was a, ‘only on holiday’ photographer when in Africa, but was lucky enough to meet a great artist and now friend Laco Madar whilst there. He looked at my photos and was, quite frankly, brutal. They were pretty holiday snaps and he told me to start including ‘the shit’. He is a unique human being with a great sense of insight and he inspired me to learn more about and love ‘the shit’ as he so eloquently put it.
Initially I was very unsure of the images I shot, became aware of the hostility and exclusiveness of some ‘street photography’ sites. I am not a lover of the term ‘street photography’ or of the meta-language that accompanies the genre. I think if a photo makes me swoon, or weep, or sigh, or question, or just stops me in my tracks, then it has served its aesthetic purpose. I have started to think ‘well I like it” therefore it is worthy to me. IPA has helped me enormously to rationalize where I am on my photography journey. I am not a ‘street photographer’ but I am a changed photographer and I am enjoying the change. Unlike many sites, the nurturing and supportive element that is shared with IPA members is so refreshing and I cannot thank you enough for my place within this community. It’s a good road on which to be journeying.
I have included some shots from my recent Myanmar trip. I fell in love with this country and its generous people.