Ellen Silverman on Creative Partnerships, Play and Letting the Unexpected Happen

Photographer/filmmaker Ellen Silverman sent us some photo experiments she made recently, and told us how they came about:

One snowy Saturday afternoon she said to herself: Just get up and GO! and set out on a walkabout in Central Park to catch the last of the day’s light. She had been thinking of a conversation she’d had a few days earlier with her friend, photographer Maxine Helfman, about taking time to just play with photography and let the unexpected happen.

As she was about to take her regular lens from her camera bag, she found a Holga lens Maxine had given her as a gift. Because they’re made of plastic, Holgas famously produce interesting —and uncontrollable— distortions. Ellen decided to put it on her camera and see what happened.

And what happened were images of The Angel of the Waters in the Bethesda Fountain, a statue designed in 1868 by Emma Stebbins, the first woman commissioned to create public sculpture in New York City. The Holga seems to have shown us the statue as it was in 1868, below. And Ellen’s slight shift of position, above, made the angel seem to hover in the air.

Ellen Silverman

I had the best time because I was just playing. The images were just what I wanted, although I didn’t know it at the time. They’re kind of like drawings…obscure, moody, beautiful because they are so imperfect.

Ellen described her friendship with Helfman as being a truly creative partnership that has proven essential to both their work:

It helps us to be less isolated and pushes us in different directions. We motivate and inspire one another.



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