With the exception of the first book in the series, Eleanor Leonne Bennett is credited for the wonderful photos used for the cover art of The Lost Elf. Personally, I feel that the theme of nature is a powerful theme in these books, and I was impressed by Eleanor’s choices of location for her photos. I asked Eleanor several questions about her work and how she feels it relates to The Lost Elf.
Why did you decide to get into photography?
Eleanor: I remember creating art at a very young age – almost like it was the first thing I wanted to do. I remember first picking up a camera around the age of twelve. I am nineteen now and the first art competitions I won were the ones ran by the Woodland Trust Nature Detectives club for young people with my mixed media work (at age eleven). This would give me an award winning artist career of eight years so far. As a young person the natural world was my biggest inspiration as well as stop motion animation amongst other subjects.
Nature seems to be a theme you use often. Why is that?
I’ve spent almost all of my life living in the countryside on the Cheshire/Derbyshire border in England. Because of this almost all of the scenes I’ve pictured are within walking distance of my old home in Cheshire. My favorite subjects when I was studying as a youngster were biology and environmental issues. I was somewhat of a nerd and I remember when I was very young writing to our representative in parliament for the local area to bring about recycling to make it a lot closer to home for people that aren’t going to recycling banks on the regular.
One of the major themes in The Lost Elf series is nature and how important it is to the main character. What is your relationship with nature?
I would like to be involved with more exhibitions to promote awareness of conserving nature and making the most of our wild spaces.
I am lucky to live in a town that still has a lot of access to wild spaces in the surrounding area. Everything from bulrushes to wild orchids and the animals that inhabit those environments. I thought it was funny that recently in a more heavily built up town with a motorway cutting straight through that I saw my first weasel skipping through a tiny patch of weeds beside one of the roads. I’ve been a member of multiple organizations that have nature at the heart of their goals including the RSPB as well as the previously mentioned Woodland Trust.
The photo used for book 2, Reptilian Encounter, has a fascinating contrast of light and dark as well as a winding pathway. How does light and shadow play a role in your photos?
I am very inspired by the play of shadows and contrast in my photographs as well as in the photographs of others (such as Bill Brandt for one example). You wouldn’t say that I’m a photographer who is afraid of working in the midday sun as I believe the boldness of shadows to completely change ordinary settings. I know when to have a perfect balanced light for more “professional” work but the strength of light can evoke such true emotions. It is there to be experimented with. I know tricks of the light have brought some very important silhouettes into my work. It can bring such whimsy and nostalgia in a photo when I want to show as if older eyes were behind the camera that what my age is in actuality.
I feel like the pathway represents the confusing and difficult quest the elf has in recovering his memories. It sort of describes, I think, the journey most of us have in discovering our own identities. Do you think about symbolism with your work?
I love the winding pathway. I have walked that same route with my fiance and I walked the same route more recently when going past the home of a relative I dread seeing. It is curious how tucked away it is. You could see it yourself if you walk the old train route to Hayfield in Derbyshire. To actually walk the route is so peaceful I think it does make you contemplate your journey. If you are to walk it alone it would be very quiet. You would be lead to a lovely stretch of water that has a faux-island in the center after about a mile and a half of walking. Symbolism in my work is something that is hard to avoid. It is just nice to know that people find themselves in my work or even see their character’s journey in the photos.
Book 3, Liberation, is set in a dense swamp. Where did you take this photo and what was your inspiration behind it?
I took the swamp photo in Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire near Tod Brook. I remember when taking this that at the time I didn’t have very many swamp photos. I used to think when I was little that this small patch of constantly wet ground in a field at home was “a swamp”. When I grew up I realized that it was awfully tiny to take a good swampy photo of. I do think the photo I took in Tod Brook was the prettiest swamp I’ve seen. On the same day I also got a lovely photo of the trees reflecting in the water. The photo became an abstract impression of flickering water and nature combined instead of a literal interpretation of a reflection.
How often do you travel?
Not very often, even to those places within walking distance of. Because I am a student for the moment I have to make the most of the opportunities when they come to my doorstep. I live somewhere very cold so in recent years I have been spoilt for extremely snowy photos. High snow drifts are great fun to photograph as they can make a landscape almost foreign to the eye of the viewer. The forms they take when manipulated by the ice and wind are beautiful.
What are some of your favorite places to photograph?
As well as rural locations in Cheshire and Derbyshire I love to branch out and visit Manchester for photo inspiration. I would like to visit London and Liverpool more as I’ve only been to those locations once. I also like to photograph within museums and make my own archival footage of very rare antiques and fine vanities.
I’m thankful for Eleanor’s time and that she was willing to share some insight into her photography. If you would like to know more about Eleanor, please visit her website: http://www.eleanorleonnebennett.com/