Interview with Darren Ellis


Q: Hi Darren, welcome to Pellicola! Tell us something about your life and yourself.

Hi! My name is Darren Ellis. I grew up in the hot, dry desert of Phoenix, Arizona and moved to the cooler, lush city of Seattle, Washington in 1999. I spend a lot of my time with my girlfriend, 10 year old son, and my career in user experience design.

Q: Tell us how you discovered photography. Do you remember when and why did you start taking pictures?

Photography was always been around me because my father has been an amateur film photographer since the early 1960’s, and there was always a photography publication or camera lying around. I personally got more into photography (outside of the occasional disposable camera or Polaroid) in the very early 2000's when I shot 35mm and 120 film with an LC-A and Holga, respectively. At the time, I enjoyed the serendipity of shooting with those cameras and spent a lot of time being less programmed with my approach.

Q: Considering photography as a creative way of expression, what do you want to create or communicate with your pictures?

I spend my work days in design, but in a leadership capacity. I don't get hands on with design like I used to so having a creative outlet is important. Through the lens I get that creative time to myself. It's calming and I can really lose myself in the process of hunting shots and circling a scene. At the moment, I don't have a specific message I'm trying to communicate but I do find them occasionally connecting back to personal memories. Most importantly, though, I desire to capture what I'm seeing with my eyes in a way that I think will translate to screen or paper. I know I'm successful with my process when I return to a photo over and over just to revisit it and get that feeling of satisfaction all over again.

Q: You split your Instagram account in two: night pictures and day pictures. What is the thing that you appreciate the most when the sun is up and when it is over?

I split my accounts because I wanted to keep a focus on night in one account, and found that it made my gallery planning easier. To answer your question, though, I appreciate the day because it gives me access to larger, wider spaces that are more difficult to capture in the dark. The distances of my day shots are deeper and less intimate, but there is definitely some overlap in the emptiness of each and subject matter.

Q: Let’s consider your day pictures, the pink shade links all the pictures. Is it fortuitous or is that something you look for when you decide what to shoot or is something you create in post-production?

It's a mix of both. I think I'm drawn to certain color palettes, especially those that remind me of my home state Arizona: reds, browns, yellows, grays, faded blues. The reds and pinks tend to be present in my day shots and I like to draw them forward even more. I also like to think of the gallery level relationships and hope there are some viewers that step back and look for their own connections.

Q: Talking about your night pictures, how do you choose or select the places you shoot at? And why are they so interesting for you?

When I go out at night it's more happenstance than planning because I enjoy the organic nature of exploring. I tend to begin with a general area in mind and then drive around scouting places to stop or will park and walk with my tripod for a bit. The places I choose are free from people because they are in business and industrial parks, alleyways, lots, and in-between spaces. I prefer these areas because there's less chance I'll be interrupted and they allow me to go at my own pace. On a deeper level, there’s a lonelier and more independent aspect to it all that creeps in and creates a higher degree of focus for me. It’s akin to going back in my own experiences to moments that were transitional or completely unremarkable and shining a light on them. These spaces become stages and it's like shooting the memory discards of in between events.

Q: There is an increasing interest for old cars in photography recently. What do you find of fascinating in cars?

We spend a lot of time in cars so they are extremely familiar and often very personal objects, yet they are transitional for most of us. Older cars speak to me because they represent different chapters in life, and they have more character with their scratches, dust, and worn surfaces. Again, it goes back to returning to familiar and deeper feelings.

Q: Who is the photographer you appreciate the most, and why?

This is a tough question because there are so many great photographers out there. If I look back to the very first question you asked I have to point back to my father for making photography familiar. I can also think of a particular photographer from my toy camera days that inspired me and made me want to create and explore: Kevin Meredith. While I don't shoot with my old plastic cameras anymore, he's someone that kept focus on his style and even gave back to the community. He inspired me to keep shooting, even if I was less serious about the outcomes.

Q: Do you have any upcoming projects?

Not at the moment. I'm going to spend more of my upcoming time focused on getting a website together. It's finding the time that has been difficult. Outside of this, I'm just trying to shoot as much as I can.

Q: Suggest us a film or an album.

If you follow me, you'll notice I love pairing music with my photos in story posts. I even keep a highlight on my profile to save them for later viewing. It's hard to pick a particular album because I listen to such a range of music, but here's an album I enjoy often: "Glider" LP by The Sight Below.


All images © Darren Ellis