Point102 blog interviewed photographer Elliot Ross and featured a selection of his work back in February 2015 (check it out here). Just recently, however, Ross has relaunched his website and is presenting a whole new selection of photos in the ‘Animal Studies’ series. His first 'Animal' and 'Other Animals' portfolios expanded from the experience of having his household cat die. Ross was surprised at the realisation of how close he had become to this other species and it triggered a whole series of images of animals (monkeys, pigs, rabbits etc.) photographed in their natural habitats in the wild or captivity. After some digital manipulation, the results are highly dramatic black and white portraits. In Ross’ new series, the animals are often slightly distorted and blurred, they become dynamically abstract, seemingly throbbing with energy. In others, we see for the first time groups of animals together, displaying family dynamics and dramatic scenarios. Point 102 caught up with Ross to discuss his new images and direction.
“Animal Studies” Ross tells us, “is the working title I'm using in the beginning stages of a new series, much of it an outgrowth of my taking a photograph that I considered to be a mistake. But the error in that image proved intriguing. I kept going back to look at the exposure. It was one of those times that made me remember how powerful accidents can be, becoming forces for evolution in an artist's work”
“Accidents also drive evolution in the natural world. Generations of complex living organisms differ from the ones that came before through the normal mixing of DNA from parents. Another source of change, one producing more drastic differences in the succeeding generations, can be mistakes in the transcription of the DNA, random errors producing mutations. Most mutations are crippling or deadly. But some prove fortunate. They give survival advantages to the offspring, and those advantages are propagated through the succeeding generations of a species, resulting in a world constantly alive with new possibilities. That "failed" photograph, the one that opened up my own new possibilities, was my attempt to take a picture of the back of a gray catbird. As I released the shutter, the bird swiveled its head in my direction. I had intended to photograph the catbird while it was still, and I thought that this exposure, with its motion blur, was just a wasted effort. Yet something in it challenged me. It was not what I had intended to do, which was the fortunate thing about it: I was being drawn away from established intentions. Eventually I chose to print one image from all the gray catbird exposures. It is the one you see below”
Although Ross is very articulate in talking about his work, he feels that over-explanation does potentially detract from the process of making the image and the finished article “I find that the less I say about the work, the better to preserve my “visual thinking” about it” he says, “The project is developing rapidly in several new and unexpected directions, which makes it one of discovery within the medium and within my emotional mind”
I wondered if he was thinking about a new project or next steps but it’s clear the “Animal Series” is still the priority for the photographer. “The project” he says “is still in its infancy and has, so far, developed so many new possible images in so short a time, I can't imagine working on anything else for months or years to come”