16 year old British photographer has a following
By Megan Kelley
Dramatic and intimate, the photographic series by Eleanor Bennett featured in Dancing Noodle Magazine is as unapologetic and gritty as an urban landscape, as complex as a masquerade, and with as many angles as adulthood. Though only sixteen, the young British photographer has been shooting for four years with impressive strides in both her prolific shooting and in award-winning exhibitions and publications.
Eleanor approached art through making mixed media works. Though successful with the process — she won three competitions at an early age — she found herself drawn to photography as an extension of technology. A natural tinkerer who often took apart radios to discover their inner workings, Eleanor taught herself the basics of a camera and set off to peer into an entirely different machine: the psychological workings of the environment around her.
Though equally comfortable with wildlife and environmental photography — the likes of which won her major placement with National Geographic — Eleanor’s personal work leans towards high fashion appeal and a dramatic, gritty touch. “I’m drawn towards opposites; I like to frame people who are the opposite of [my experience].” Though she is often the model in her own work — the self-portrait serving as investigation of humanity’s place in an opposite world — Eleanor’s advice for directing models is the same that she uses for directing herself. “Know your angles… and don’t be afraid to be a shapeshifter: never be too similar. [When posing] I like to take on emotions that have nothing to do with me, but I have great empathy, so sometimes taking a photo releases some of that [sensitivity.]” At times her works reclaim themes or images taken in earlier photographs whose physicality has been altered or changed through the passage and scarification of time: a self-portrait recapping a “Demon” portrait demanded drastic physical changes; a portrait featuring her mother placed her in a Morris Minor car that had been in perfect condition during her childhood but left to ruin as she grew; a portrait of her father was with a car whose broken pieces were then repaired.
Though she can follow a color atmosphere for a series or for one of her dramatic landscape shots, Eleanor typically favors the timelessness and sophistication of black and white in portraiture and architectural shots: “Subtle angles and graceful poses don’t always need the brightest colors.” Black and white, she argues, reaches everyone, on a psychological level as well as a practical one: “the things I am published in don’t always print in full color, so it is best to [consider my framing as a photographer] in the possibility of black and white. I can always revert to the original and produce the color version… but I’m old-fashioned and stubborn in my tastes sometimes!”
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Photos by Eleanor Bennett
She’s also incredibly loyal to her equipment, preferring her trusty Lumix DMC FX38; “I have a Nikon, but [the Lumix’s] zoom is marvelous, and it works so well.” Focusing on natural lighting for her main shoot and incorporating the hand of the photographer — flaws and happy accidents — as a part of the shooting process, Eleanor relies on simple tools (Photo Gallery and Irfanview, a free editing software) for basic manipulations in the form of adjusting to crop a photo, add contrast, or subtract color. “It’s that little piece of software that has helped me become globally published; this alternative [to Photoshop] was a godsend.”
For other photographers just starting out and looking for publication, Eleanor recommends not only knowing your tools but also doing your research into your promotional possibilities. “Browse Google and recent results… look for places through newspages, magcloud, issuu: all of those have helped me a lot.” She emphasizes being polite and respectful, but says that applies not only to how you treat the magazine, but also how you treat yourself when promoting your art. “Treat everyone the same,” so that your work and reputation are also respected. And she talks about the importance of being around other artists: “We have the same worries, the same insecurities. It’s good to have someone to talk to who understands you [and your excitement and passion].” While it’s good to connect and promote yourself, however, the most important thing, she says, is to please and challenge yourself first. “To make art from an image, is the meaning you put behind it.”
A gracious interviewee and an ambitious photographer, it’s exciting to see her naturally analytical nature making sense of the workings of humanity through photography. More of Eleanor Bennett’s work can be viewed online at www.eleanorleonnebennett.zenfolio.com.
Editor’s note: Eleanor Leonne Bennett is a 16 year old internationally award winning photographer and artist who has won first places with National Geographic, The World Photography Organisation, Nature’s Best Photography, Papworth Trust, Mencap, The Woodland Trust and Postal Heritage. Her photography has been published in the Telegraph, The Guardian, BBC News Website and on the cover of books and magazines in the United States and Canada. Her art is globally exhibited, having shown work in London, Paris, Indonesia, Los Angeles, Florida, Washington, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Canada, Spain, Germany, Japan, Australia and The Environmental Photographer of the year Exhibition (2011) amongst many other locations. She was also the only person from the UK to have her work displayed in the National Geographic and Airbus run global exhibition tour with the United Nations International Year Of Biodiversity 2010.