Behind the Lens with Jenn Hollmeyer
An Interview with Eleanor Leonne Bennett
Sixteen-year-old Eleanor Leonne Bennett (eleanorleonnebennett.zenfolio.com) lives in Cheshire County, England, and has been winning photography awards around the world since she first picked up a camera five years ago. She uses her Panasonic Superzoom to snap glimpses of everything from nature to herself. Check out the Spring 2012 issue of Fifth Wednesday Journal for more of her photography.
Handle with Care by Eleanor Leonne Bennett
FWJ: You're exhibiting in the United States now, with shows coming up in New Orleans and work being sold in Philadelphia. When and where was your first U.S. show, and how did it come about?
Eleanor Leonne Bennett: The first time an individual decided to exhibit my work in the States was last year, and it was thanks to a great lady named Bonnie MacAllister. She runs a magazine called Certain Circuits (click here for Certain Circuits site) that had an exhibition of aspiring artists in Philly. She included my work and returned all the pieces that didn't sell, free of charge. I really appreciate kindness — it is not nice to be snubbed. I am very grateful to everyone who enjoys my work.
FWJ: Your grandfather was also a photographer. How has he encouraged you? Are there other photographers in your family?
ELB: I only met my grandfather when I was 15. He said he really wished he had my eye, as I'm aware of things in the background that I haven't seen yet. He said he did a lot of photography for his books (he is an author), but wished he hadn't missed out on important shots that needed that other sense to come into play.
Also, I found some photos the other month taken by the Wildes, who are on my grandma's side of the family. The compositions were fabulous and the street scenes were lovely. Poignant and simple. I would have really liked to meet whoever took those images. I think a lot of them were taken in the ‘20s and ‘30s.
FWJ: When you were twelve, you began keeping a photographic nature diary in order to record the things you see around you. What was your most exciting nature encounter as a part of this project?
ELB: I think I enjoyed the fact that I got to see a nuthatch, which is very rare in these parts! One of the most sadly beautiful things I saw was a drowned dragonfly emerging from the water. I remember laying it on the grass gently outside the pond. Normally they are really predatory, so it was strange to see one so vulnerable and delicate.
FWJ: Which photographers do you look to for inspiration?
ELB: These days I often look to photographers like Alexander Rodchenko and Cindy Sherman (www.cindysherman.com), but I still love documentary photography — like ones captured by Reza Deghati, Chris Johns, and Joel Sartore (www.joelsartore.com). I would like to concentrate on fine art images mainly this year and also street photography. I feel I need to practice those genres more.
FWJ: Do you take your camera with you wherever you go, or do you pull it out on certain days when you have time to devote to photography?
ELB: It goes everywhere I do, sometimes just for security. It has a voice recorder — you never know when you might need a little help and some evidence. People can be quite defensive near my camera, so I wear it all the time anyway and people are getting used to the girl with the camera. Getting people to relax is the secret to a good portrait.
FWJ: You appear in several of your photos — sometimes in profile, sometimes head-on, sometimes just your feet or hand or legs. What is it like for you to photograph yourself, as opposed to something outside yourself?
ELB: Mostly the self-portraits exist because I can't get
people to model for me. I try to express the emotions and feelings of others
I can't get in contact with. People affect me a lot. Sometimes I feel like
I can never really release my true emotions. Art bridges that gap.
FWJ: Some of your work is in color, and some is in black and white. As a nature photographer, what are your feelings on the use of color, and how do you decide when to strip it from your photos?
ELB: Black-and-white gives the same emotions in the majority of cases, and I really enjoy what it brings out in the image. I always shoot in color and afterwards convert to black and white. I use IrfanView (www.irfanview.com) for all my editing and resizing. I swear by it.
FWJ: What is the most important thing you want people to understand by viewing your work?
ELB: Just enjoy it! And I hope it gets some people thinking. I will get better pieces and improve as an artist, so just keep following my work.
Eleanor Leonne Bennett is a sixteen-year-old internationally award-winning artist. Her photography has been published in the Telegraph, The Guardian, the BBC News Website, and on the cover of books and magazines in the United States and Canada. Her art is also globally exhibited. She is published in the Life Is a Bed of Roses book for Macmillan Cancer and in the CIWEM Environmental Photographer of the Year 2011 book. Learn more at eleanorleonnebennett.zenfolio.com.