Interview: Ellie Young

Ellie Young  with 11x14 camera

When, how and why did you become interested in photography?
From about three years old sitting on the pantry bench watching my father contact printing film he had just processed – magic then – magic now.

You are known for running Gold Street Studios, but you are also known for your exquisite salt and albumen photographs from 8 x 10 and 11 x 14 negatives. Tell us about those photographs.
During early years at college and university I felt compelled to please the tutors, assessors and fellow students, this dampened my passion. Once I realised their opinion was not so important – only my passion for what I could see was the real reason to capture an image – I never looked back.

You can love or hate my work – but I loved every minute of making the photograph – from capture to printing and framing. By capturing 8 x 10 and contact printing I feel I can maximise reproducing what I see through the lens. These 8 x 10 sheets of film allow me to easily contact print most print processes I am interested in. Viewing the subject through the lens is still the most exciting part of the journey.

Wing - Albumen photograph
Do you always photograph small objects?
I love the texture of nature and different subject matter – the higher magnifications reveal a whole different world I find exciting. So yes it is often small objects I explore.

What influences you and your photography?
Many things – but mostly I am triggered by simple things – such as light catching “weeds” at the side of the road – I have to then gather them up for a studio setup as there is no way I can achieve the magnification I want in the field.

Garden Seat - Tintype
What have been your most interesting projects and why?
The most interesting project is always the one I am working on – I become completely absorbed.

What darkroom methods do you use for developing film?
Simple – PMK (pyro) developer in a Jobo expert drum. I do manipulate the formula to suit my methods.

Watchcog - Carbon Photograph

Most of your exhibited work is printed by contact, do you ever enlarge negatives?
I have not enlarged negatives a great deal since using the 8 x 10 camera. I do enlarge when I print glass plate negative for clients – or test a process on a smaller plate.

Shell - Salt Print
What do you feel about the trend of making contact photographs from digitally printed negatives?
This is wonderful technical progression allowing opportunities for 35mm, medium format and digital photographers to create hand made photographs easily.

You have recently installed solar panels on your studio. How important is sustainability in your photographic practice?
The studio creating its energy takes away the guilt of using too much of our natural resources – as does gathering rainwater for processing.

Dad Carbon Photograph

Gold Street Studios host the annual View Camera Gathering. Can you explain what that is?
This is a meeting of like-minded photographers who use view cameras. It is a fun way sharing a passion, offering a way to expand knowledge and skills. This year is the seventh year – they are like a family – many returning each year and always-welcoming new attendees. It is such a privilege to have these wonderful photographers gather each year at gold street studios.

Can you name some Australian photographers you admire?
There are many – Olive Cotton, Joyce Evans, Stephen DuPont, Sue Purdy, Wolfgang Sievers, Harry Nankin, Peter Dombrovskis, Frank Hurley, and I just love John Kauffmann’s work.

Delicate Decay

Where has your work been shown? Where can we see your work?
I have shown in UK, Belgium, NSW and Victoria in Australia. My work is held at gold street studios and Falkner gallery in Castlemaine (Victoria).

Snail - Salt Print

What do you suggest for photographers starting out in large format photography?
Find your passion – view cameras just a basic but beautiful tool to realise this passion. If you find it the view camera a hindrance to making photographs that inspire you – find a different way to capture.

Ellie Young is co-owner of Gold Street Studios & Gallery

She is author of Salt Print Manual