Dee Elegia is a Scottish self-taught photographer, living in Manchester. Creating with tangible imagery is what really drives and inspires her. She spends most days making new polaroid pictures or in the darkroom developing and printing.
Do you remember how you first discovered polaroid and what impressed you most about it?
About six years ago, my friend and I were in a vintage shop in Glasgow looking at bits and bobs, and I stumbled upon Impossible film on one of the shelves. I’d only just gotten my first Polaroid camera a couple of weeks previous to this, and been wrongly told that you couldn’t get film for them anymore. So it was really exciting to find out that this wasn’t true and that I could have the opportunity to make my own Polaroids for the first time. I bought a pack, and I’ve been hooked on Polaroid ever since.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of instant photography to you?
I think that all film formats have their weaknesses and their strengths, and I choose what to shoot dependent on the conditions I’m working in. Instant photography has a tangible element to it, which means that it’s great for pushing beyond just the initial shot. You can create emulsion lifts, transfers, mixed media pieces – there’s an abundance of possibilities with what you can do with it; it’s just down to your own imagination. I guess I sort of embrace the weaknesses a lot of the time and try to be more creative. Impossible films have progressed and changed throughout the five or six years that I’ve been using them, and that’s a factor that I really enjoy. Expired Polaroid film then adds a further element of serendipity. I don’t like all of my images to look the same, and if something is always producing the same look for me, I choose to alter how I use it so that it doesn’t. Basically, I think it’s down to the artist to get what they want out of a tool, and every tool is malleable.
Where do you get inspiration from? How much of your background is present in the photos?
My inspirations are ever evolving. I draw on film, literature and music but I’m also heavily influenced by my life experiences and childhood. I’m a very nostalgic and sentimental person, and I’ve found that photography can often be my way of looking back on memories. I grew up in the nineties so I do like to reference this a lot in my work, in a more obscure way. I’m influenced by my surroundings – the architecture, the people I meet and pretty much whatever is going on in my life at that moment. I think inspiration comes from everywhere, and the great thing about it is that it’s a constant.
You often photograph yourself! How did you make this choice?
I photograph myself a lot! Roughly once a week. I have collected quite a few cameras over the last few years, and as I’m self-taught, my method of learning how to use them is to do simply that – use them. So last year I was shooting once or twice a week, and creating a lot of new work. I guess because I find the learning part of photography so much fun and exciting, it’s not difficult to motivate myself to shoot. I live for new pictures and get frustrated when I don’t have any to work on. I am also very focused on improving and progressing, so for me that means I have to always be creating new work and making mistakes, so that I can learn from them. Last year, for example, taught me that I need to concentrate more on making series’ rather than single images.
How would you say has photography changed your life and the way you look at things?
Photography is what I do every day in some form or another, either I’m planning my next shoot or I’m working on images from the last shoot. So it’s very much my passion and my source of happiness. It’s also something that I feel I can use as a cathartic release to explore whatever is going on in my head. I think it’s made me more open to people, even if perhaps that’s something that I struggle with in person. It’s a way for me to share my experiences without feeling scared of the response. I can hide behind my work, but I can also connect with people through it too.
If you could shoot 1 person dead or alive who would you love to shoot?
I really want to name a famous person or someone who I am obsessed with like, Bob Dylan. But in reality, the person who I’d love to photograph is my Dad! Not simply because it’s an achievable choice, but because he is the role model in my life who has had the most influence on me and I’d like to make a portrait of him that captures the close relationship I have with him. Maybe that’s why I haven’t done it yet – I want to get it right and do it justice. It’s definitely in my sights to photograph him one day, when I’m feeling confident enough to do so.