Ella Uzan: Finding Fantasia
The images created by Ella Uzan enter the world of fashion photography with a breath of heightened creativity and curious imagination.
By: ABBY ZIRZOW
All photographs featured are by Ella Uzan.
When one thinks of a shy child, they tend to assume the child lives in a world of loneliness and isolation, always in need of someone to come and sit with them. For Ella Uzan, however, her time was not spent in fear nor shame for her quietness. An Israeli photographer located in Hamburg, she began painting in her youth, which became her way of sharing stories of “her own imaginary world.” Painting taught Uzan that verbal language is not necessary to communicate one’s personality, style, or heart.
Today, Uzan portrays her imaginary world in the images she creates, whether from internal daydreams or external strolls and encounters with new stories found in her latest foreign travels. She was also influenced by an early academic career in animation, sharpening her visualization skills. Uzan constructs her images through intentional and intuitive decisions of what lights to lay across and within her scenes. She uses colors to set the mood and emotions she wants for each photo. She captures the subject’s expression and eyes connecting with the lens in a way that expresses the emotions felt between her and the subject during the shoot.
Uzan constructs the initial “mood” of the photograph; however, she does not construct the person in front of the camera. She finds who the model is within the central character of the photo, not the character within the model. The characters of her photos are intimately engaged with their inner world, their imagination, their personal style of the way of seeing things, while not forgetting the outside world and viewers around them.
Developing a relationship with her subjects is important to Uzan, as one of the most impactful threads in her work comes from candid facial expressions and gazes of the artist’s intuitively dressed models. She frequently pursues working with youth because she has seen an “authenticity” in these models, relating to them through her childhood memories of time spent with herself and her imagination.
Uzan works with fashion magazines, and her work has been displayed in everything from art festivals, galleries, and beyond. She works with fashion companies and magazines that look to stray away from typical commercial shoots in favor of “unique, artistic” images and intimate, inventive moodscapes through which fashion can shine.
How did you find yourself working in photography?
ELLA UZAN: I always dreamed to be a photographer, but it took me a while to believe in myself. I worked different jobs before but none of them ever felt right, I never felt the passion that I feel when I hold my camera. It was a long and difficult journey before it became my full-time job, but this journey is what made me the photographer I am today.
How do you negotiate your personal artistic vision with an industry that puts focus on works that fit a particular mold of what is in style or on trend?
I think that every style has its audience. My style is not classically commercial, but there are a lot of people that want to promote their products in more unique, artistic way. Those people are my potential clients. I never try to follow trends. I think that a good artist should be able to feel or invent what is coming next.
What are some differences you have found in being a photographer in Germany and Israel? Is there a difference?
I am very happy that I have had the opportunity to work all over the world. Israel will always be my home, so when I am going to work there, it is so easy and my team is like family. I know all the locations and where to get everything that I need.
Working with other countries always inspires me since everything is new, you have a completely different perspectives than those of local photographers. Working with new people really opened my mind to new places, so traveling and working in Germany has definitely made me a better artist.
How has your passion for animation shaped that world that your photography exists in?
I think that animation will be always be something that will be close to my heart. It's the first place I learned how to create magic, when I learned I could share my imaginary world, and how to tell my stories. I have found that it is the same in photography.
What does imagination mean to you and how has it guided your work?
As a little girl I used to live in my own imaginary world; I didnʼt speak until I was five. I used to communicate through my paintings, so this naturally transitioned to me taking up photography.
Your work has been featured in several fashion magazines. What is it about fashion that makes it so important in your work?
Fashion, for me, is a tool used to convey a story. It is a crucial element in the frame as fashion can define the mood, the period, and the genre of the photo.
Portraits, more specifically, the eyes tend to be a recurring theme in your work. What is it about eyes you find so compelling to capture?
“Eyes are like mirrors.” This metaphor is very important for me when I shoot a portrait. It is always a challenge to bring a lot of emotions to one look, as it is the creation between the person in front of the camera and I. The result is dependent on the connection felt between the two of us.
You have mentioned your fascination with “moods” interlaced in the different cities you have traveled through, and these “moods” influences in your work. What is a “mood” to you? Is there any defining characteristics of a place that you can define that contribute to the “moods” you experienced there?
My personal work and my style are always a reflection of my inner world, so for me it's very intuitive. Sometimes I tell stories that I only come to understand a few years later, but it is always connected to my life, my dreams, and my fears. Everything is there.
Animation as a creative process is all about the story. How is the element of storytelling reflected in your photographic process? What is it about connecting with others through art that is so important?
There is only one of us in the world and we are all connected in different ways. Art has always been the best way for me to express myself because of art's ability to move people. In the end, you want to tell your story, and in my case itʼs a love story in so many ways.
The use of color in your work is one that is exceptionally done. In a world celebrating minimalism and neutrals, why do you gravitate towards pastels and other colors?
Colors represent emotions, I use them to describe who I am and what I want to say.
In some of your images you have chosen to work with children. How has working with children shaped your work?
The best thing about working with children is that it is always so real. It can be very challenging, but when you catch the moment, it is always so pure and authentic.
You mentioned the importance of art’s influence on your work. How do the varying mediums and images help impact your work?
Classical art and movies have always had a large influence on my work. The more I was exposed to them, the more tools I got that helped me to use my imagination and develop my aesthetics.
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