Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Conversation with Elizabeth Fleming

For many of us in the United States celebrating Thanksgiving today, I only found it fitting to share our conversation with Elizabeth Fleming, whose work focuses on family.

Nymphoto: Tell us a little about yourself

Elizabeth Fleming: I live with my husband James and our two daughters Edie and June, who are six and three, in New Jersey. We were in Brooklyn for a good long while, and then after Edie was born we decided we wanted a house and a yard and the whole suburban lifestyle, so we relocated and have never looked back. The move really made my current body of work "Life is a series of small moments" possible--it's so much about home, our surroundings, and these interior spaces that are particular to where we're living. I don't think I could have created these pictures in our one-bedroom condo on a city street. I'm currently home with my girls; two days a week they go off with our babysitter, and are in school until mid-afternoon. During those hours I try to cram in as much as possible: working on my art, keeping up with my blog Tethered, running errands, getting the house in order, and a number of other tasks (along with my fair share of procrastinating). It's sometimes a precarious balance, but I'm constantly grateful that I have this amazing home life, and then am able to engage my intellectual and artistic impulses through my photography.

NP: How did you discover photography?

EF: My parents bought me my first camera when I was about 10; I still have the contact sheets from my first photo shoot--I was very into double-exposures and overly dramatic setups. There's an image of me putting my hand through my dad's head, and some shots of the moon above a lit window. It was all in black-and-white and I have no idea where my parents got the film developed or printed. But before that I had always considered myself an artist--I loved to draw and paint when I was little, and photography simply felt like an extension of my creative expression. My parents have always been very encouraging; I can't remember if I asked for the camera or they gave it to me thinking I would enjoy it, but either way they treated photography as another art form, and helped to facilitate my love of making pictures, in whatever medium I chose.

Rejected popsicle, © Elizabeth Fleming

NP: Where do you find inspiration?

EF: My main inspiration comes from my daily life. I find that I'm constantly looking and observing; small things like dishes in the sink or how the light fills a room can set my mind spinning. I really try to notice and see with conscious attention what's around me. And my family of course is an enormous influence--my daughters provide so much of the impetus for my image-making. They're my muses. Beyond that, every day I read my roster of photography blogs--they lead me to new work, much of which I find stirs me to want to continue producing. I'm also an avid reader, and I find that certain writers can really spark ideas and get that wonderful itchy creative feeling flowing in my veins.

NP: How do your projects come about?

EF: I work from a very intuitive place. Often ideas will flood into my head, almost fully formed, and then I mull over them and tweak them internally. So much of my work takes place in my mind before I begin to outwardly express my concepts. By the same token, on numerous occasions I'll simply be struck by a scene and grab my camera and begin shooting. But I think all of the mental pondering that goes on beforehand then informs how I take my pictures. It's a combination of intellectual thought and this instinctual drive, which is motivated by the passion I feel for creating. And certainly with my children they are so much the focus of my life that it feels very natural for me to want to try to capture the emotional landscape of how I see them and our surroundings, and try to convey this sense of motherhood and my desire to freeze time in a visual format.

NP: What’s next?

EF: I'll go on submitting as much as I can without neglecting my art-making, and will continue as always with my shooting and writing via my blog. My long-term goals are to have a solo show and to produce a limited-edition book. One gratifying thing about my future is that my family is my constant, and I can look forward to being there to capture the changes that my girls will go through in the years to come.

See more of Elizabeth Fleming's work at and be sure to keep updated on her writing at Tethered. Happy Holidays!

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