Edna Dott | interview

Light Sensitive: Birds – particularly flocks in flight – are a recurring motif in your work. Can you talk about why you are attached to this visual motif and why it appears repeatedly in your images?

Edna Dott: Ever since I can remember, birds fascinated me. Their ability to soar freely between land, sky and water mesmerized me. I still recall a dream I had repeatedly when I was a child; in it, I would all of a sudden start flying in our apartment, from room to room, and then to the main patio doors, which would open on their own to let me out in the sky and toward the ocean ahead. The end of the dream was always the same – I would suddenly lose my wings and start falling, till I’d wake up right before I hit the water.

I love how these winged creatures enrich our lives by simply being there, how they sit on the wires as if in little societies, how they take off upward and dive, how they sing and fly in perfect formations, and magical murmurations. So yes, I love including them in my work, and oftentimes I add them myself, using layers or multiple exposure.

Although your medium of choice is photography, your creative aesthetic seems decidedly anti-photographic. Most of your images avoid focus and subtract information. Your vision seems very painterly. Can you talk about what you find so satisfying and compelling about this way of constructing images, and why you identify as a photographer rather than, say, a painter?

I don’t think of myself as a photographer. I am a self-taught amateur with only basic technical knowledge. My creative journey began with words, though I was a visual person and had to ‘see’ what I’d then write about, either in an image that would inspire me, or around me, in Nature, or within my imagination’s many playgrounds. If I had the ability to draw or paint, I would most likely have started with that. Photography, however, was a more approachable means of expression. Of course, I couldn’t always capture what I wanted to create exactly, because some of that was reality and some imagination. But my goal was to bridge the two and bring what I saw into “life”. That is partly why I often avoid sharp focus and conceal rather than reveal. More than anything, I identify as an artist, and what I find so compelling and rewarding about my process is the “new eyes” I am perpetually given by what is around and within me, and the fact that I can touch others, because they can relate, they can see and feel my images their way.

Here is a short list of images that I am particularly curious about: Fill in the Blanks, Karyatis, Little Haven, Moonstruck, Rainy Mood, Saudade, Shades of Bleakness. Would you care to tell any stories about the origins of these images, your attachments to them, their significant/meanings to you?

Fill In the Blanks
Fill in the blanks
: I came up with the title, because that is exactly what I did with that picture.. The original capture was of great compositional value (to me), but felt there was something missing on the subject matter, so I practically “filled in the blanks” using multiple exposure and a separate picture of birds I had.

Moonstruck Karyatis
Moonstruck & Karyatis
: I was experimenting with blur and light, using myself as a model. The purpose was to capture something abstract that relayed a certain feeling, with focus on the impact rather than the subject. With the first image, I was mentally taken to a forest at night, where nymphs might have been dancing and singing under the moonlight, hence the main subject. The addition of the birds symbolizes the freedom of thought and dream, of feeling safe, of just being.. They were added as a layer, which I then mirrored, affected by the Rorschach technique. In “Karyatis”, the abstract result of my photo reminded me of Ancient Greek statues, and the “Karyatides” specifically. The rest of my processing was guided by the way I felt the outcome should look like – timeless, albeit olden and faded by time.

little haven
Little Haven
: I really enjoy shooting from a moving car (as a passenger). I avoid focus entirely on purpose, and this image was no different. The subject was a small Aegean style house overlooking a beach, simple, surrounded by nature. It appeared beautifully alone, inviting and ..’havenly’. It made me think of a hidden sanctuary that I’d love to have. I worked with my image to give it a paint-like and fluid look, because it felt right.

: A piece that led me to its making, rather than I it. I held on to that capture for a good while before working on it. I knew it was special, but waited to feel exactly what I wanted to create, and eventually had several versions before I was fully content with the result. Shot with intentional absence of focus. This was all about the mood and the emotions evoked, just like the title; an inscrutable longing that cannot be defined or explained, only felt. Melancholy, nostalgia, yearning… Being somewhere willingly, and all at once wishing to be someplace else. The birds were a final, added detail, lending a sense of leaving and migration, but also hope.

Rainy Mood
Rainy Mood
: It was a miserable, stormy and cold day. I was looking out my window without a view, watching the rain and flailing trees, and our neighbor’s home in the background. The ambience made me think of Emily Brontë’s “Wuthering Heights”. I grabbed my camera, took a few shots with intentional camera movement, and eventually edited my favorite, giving a forlorn and somewhat eerie, haunted look.

Shades of Bleakness
Shades of Bleakness
: I was challenging myself with this one. Another drive-by capture, which attracted my eye with those 3 posts and the barren land around them. It took me to a post-apocalyptic world, and its very own “Golgotha”.

I always feel attached to my images, sometimes a little, or a lot, sometimes all the way. From the ones above, Saudade and Little Haven belong to the ‘all the way’ category; the first because its melancholy speaks to my soul, the other because of my undying love for sea and summer, and missing it when I am far away.

Do you remember the first image you made that really inspired you and motivated you to make more pictures? Was there a pivotal image which first gave you a glimpse of the expressive potential of images? If so, can you tell me the story of this picture?

I hadn’t given it much thought until now, and upon reading your question – thank you. The answer is absolutely yes. That image is not in my online portfolio, but it’s the first I ever ordered as a canvas print, and framed to hang in our home. The story goes back a few years, maybe seven or eight, when I had managed to capture a flock of geese in V-formation. I still remember my excitement, even though the sky that day was an extremely boring grey, with nothing whatsoever adding interest to the background. It was also the first time I actually appreciated those loud trouble makers that are known to make nest in improbable places like parking lots, and have actually chased me a couple of times. That same picture, inspired my husband to research those beautiful birds and their ways, and make an entire presentation for work that revolved around that subject.

A few years later, I discovered the world of textures and embarked on a mission to learn how to use them, but most importantly how to make my own. The process taught me that I can create something beautiful from pretty much anything, while introducing me to abstract and macro photography as well. Getting my first android “superphone”, gave me additional means to explore and discover. Where you would find people on their cell phones texting, emailing and twitting, you’d find me taking pictures of the weirdest – to most – subjects, and finding new, different ways to make art. One day I was moving some folded cardboard boxes in our back yard, and saw great texture potential. I took several pictures that day, many of which have been used in projects I absolutely loved. One of those photos inspired me to create an abstract image which reminded me of waves, oceanic winds and even a twilight sky. With the use of certain editing techniques that involved motion blur and colors, it was transformed into a beautiful background which became the perfect mate for my geese. To this day, no one has ever come even close to guessing that “sea breeze”, as I titled that image, is based on some dirty cardboard.

Do you see your work as a form of memoir? Are there autobiographical inspirations in your imagery?

Another fantastic question. I suppose it does feel as a kind of memoir, simply because there is a whole lot of me and my personal journeys in what I create. My work is directly tied to my growth as a human being, to my understanding of myself and others, the world, the past and future. I have very often found clarity through inspiration, as surely as solace, answers, and even closure, in some cases. I can block everything else when I create, and listen to nothing but my inner voice speaking of raw truths. Moreover, there are images that are interlaced with specific moments in my life; transitions, significant events, pain or joy, hope and fears. As far as an autobiography is concerned, I do see it somewhere in the future, perhaps as a form of an art collection, an anthology of writings, or a combination of the two, that will find its way to a few shelves. And if, by chance, my grandchildren and their grandchildren ever wonder about “that artist woman” in their family, they will have something more personal left behind to speak of who I was, through the way I saw the world and life. I end this answer with a quote of mine: To be inspired, is to live. To inspire, is to outlive.

What is your personal definition of creativity?

It’s more about what it is to me, rather than a definition, which is, I think, what your question seeks. It is a way of life and love, a way to loving life more each day, never taking even one moment for granted. It is a stronghold, a form of personal, intimate freedom, a place where I can be me, feel me, and let go of all I keep inside, all I wish to say and share. Creativity is what keeps my spirit’s fires alive and dancing, what kindles my hopes for this world’s future, what allows me to believe that beauty, simplicity, gratitude and kindness will win the war against greed. Creativity is the song of my soul.

What are your ambitions?

Initially, I’d love to find the time and concentration to finish my personal website and online bookstore, as well as open a small neighborhood atelier, while continuing to get better, and learning more. In the future, I wish to be able to visit various places in the world that I want to see and photograph. Perhaps organize an Art exhibition with fellow artists I admire and respect. I would like to write more and share with many other people this gift of seeing differently, of appreciating the simple, everyday wonders, and using the beauty we are blessed to behold and experience, to change the world for the better.

What important question(s) did I miss? Is there anything else you would care to share?

I would like to mention how important the support and friendship of some creative and kindred spirits has been to me and my craft’s growth. A few of them have even gone beyond that, and have actively helped me with unconditional giving of advice, knowledge, tips and mentorship. The ultimate reward of doing what I do is the fact that I can positively affect other souls, and inspire them to look, see and seek further and deeper.

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All images copyright © Edna Dott, 2016. No re-production of re-distribution without explicit written permission. Contact Edna Dott via Fotoblur.