LET THE SUN SHINE
IN CONVERSATION WITH ELIZABETH PAOLETTI
Elizabeth Paoletti is a passionate photographer who is always ready to take her skills to the next level. While she loves all genres of photography, she considers herself more of a creative photographer. As her interest in photography evolved, she began to experiment with different camera techniques and particularly loves using intentional camera movement to create a more abstract or artistic feel to her photos. She is mesmerized by vibrant colors, beautiful light and the tiniest details, and enjoys the challenge of photographing the mundane. Yellow is one of Elizabeth’s favorite colors and is the color of thread that ties this series of photographs together. For Elizabeth, yellow is cheerful and reminds her of her sister, Alyssa. She loves Alyssa’s sunny and positive disposition, and dedicates this selection of photographs to her. She also wants to thank her brother, Marc. He knows why.
“Creativity is intelligence having fun.”
Elizabeth, you say you were born and raised in the United States. What do you think you bring to your work as an American photographer? How does that translate to your images?
Not only was I born and raised in the United States, but I was raised by Italian-American parents who valued the arts. I was raised with the classics. I grew up playing the piano, and I was surrounded by opera, ballet, theater, musicals and painting. My mom is a painter, and I grew up with a lot of vivid color in the home. I believe the genesis of every artistic impulse I have revolves back to my upbringing, and in the case of my photography, I strongly resonate with brighter, more vibrant colors.
When did you first pick up a camera? What was that experience like? How did you know you wanted to be a photographer?
I first picked up a camera when my daughter was born, and then later when my daughter decided to pursue Eventing. Eventing is essentially an equestrian triathlon where a single horse and rider compete against other competitors across the three disciplines of dressage, cross-country and show jumping. For me the most exciting part of this competition was show jumping, and I wanted to capture my daughter in action jumping over fences and other obstacles. At the time, I kept trying for successful photos using my old point-and-shoot camera on auto mode. Fast forward a year and my husband purchased my first Nikon DSLR as a Christmas gift. I must confess, it sat in the box for a long time before I actually opened it. That big Nikon camera intimidated me, but with time I began to feel more comfortable using it. In the end, I still didn’t get those satisfying shots of my daughter jumping. Show jumping is inherently dangerous. I realized I was shaking and that it wasn’t the wrong shutter speed that resulted in an out-of-focus photo, it was my nerves. It’s a mom thing. In any case, I was hooked on photography. I loved how the creative process felt. My adrenaline would pump when I looked through the viewfinder and saw something compelling.
You say that you consider yourself a creative photographer, tell us what that means to you.
Over the years, I’ve experimented with many forms of creativity: drama, sewing, pottery, stenciling, collage, drawing, painting and interior design. I wanted so badly to be good at drawing and painting, but I was just terrible. Once I picked up the camera and understood the basics, I realized that I could play around with color, contrast, texture and pattern with more success. The irony is that I may not have been good at painting with a paintbrush, but I sure do enjoy the process of “painting” with my camera (intentional camera movement), and I feel successful in the process.
Do you consider your playfulness with the camera to be part of your photographic style?
Definitely. Photography wouldn’t be a passion of mine if I didn’t have the opportunity to go beyond just looking through the viewfinder and clicking. Shooting through objects, creative focusing, using props to create interesting shadows and flares and intentionally moving the camera. I find all these processes very rewarding. Sometimes just pushing a button is wonderful. The world of macro is fascinating. If I were to move the camera while shooting macro, I wouldn’t have the clarity I wanted, but being playful with the camera is when I feel the most gratified.
Your unique use of color is captivating, please tell us about the important role color plays in your work.
I grew up with bright colors in the home. At one time we had an orange rug, colorful artwork on the walls, and brightly colored seat cushions on our kitchen chairs. I connect to the happiness and joy that only vibrant colors can bring, so to express myself with my camera in this manner is immensely satisfying.
You mention the 'Mundane'. What inspiration do you find in the 'Mundane'?
Aaahhh, the mundane. I love the challenge of photographing the ordinary, whether there are vibrant colors or not. Let’s say I’m out hiking and I want to photograph the mountainous view. I will take the picture, but I will never feel creatively satisfied with a landscape shot. Not to take anything away from all the exceptional landscape photographers out there, but for me, Mother Nature has done all the creative work. Mother Nature has given me what is big and beautiful, so I feel less challenged in the photographic process. I love photographing ordinary things in a way that sings to me and hopefully to the viewer as well.
Is there a capture you have taken that stays with you? Why?
I have many, but in keeping with the above question, one of my all-time favorite photos is an image of a toothbrush. Yes, a toothbrush. It is not displayed here, but it is in my Instagram gallery. I could never replicate that picture because the light and shadow are one of a kind. The light is bouncing around the sink, creating such interesting patterns. I even managed to capture some refracted light.
What are some tips/advice you would give yourself if you started photography all over again?
I would tell my beginner photographer-self to listen with abandon to her creative voice. Art is an expression of the artist, and there is a vulnerability that goes along with that. Don’t worry about what other people think. The beauty about art is that it doesn’t want anything from you. It gives to the viewers, and the viewers decide whether the gift is right for them. Be okay with the fact that your work will not resonate with everybody. Creatively express yourself in a way that makes YOU happy.
Do you have any favorite artists/photographers?
I love Avtandil Makharoblidze. I have one of his giclees hanging on my dining room wall. His use of vibrant colors is fantastic. I also have Mahmood Sabzi hanging in my home. I adore his use of line, color and symbolism. In terms of photographers, I love Bryan Peterson’s work. You can find him on Instagram. He doesn’t know it, but he totally inspires me. His unabashed use of color is wonderful. He creates portraits, abstracts, landscapes, macros…you name it, and he does it. Not only does he do it, but he does it all so beautifully. As a photographer, I would be miserable if I were locked into one genre of photography. I want to photograph anything and everything to the best of my creative ability, so when I see the work of someone like Bryan Peterson, it motivates me beyond measure. I actually learned from him. I have taken several of his online courses and have all his books. He has a very diverse, creative and colorful approach to his picture making.
What is your favorite art inspired quote?
Albert Einstein, “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” He probably meant it figuratively, but I have it taped on my computer nevertheless. I love it. It is my daily dose of inspiration.
What are any lasting impressions you would like to leave the viewer? What is their ‘Take Away’ ?
Color makes me feel like that six-year-old who received a new box of crayons. If I can pass that feeling along to my viewers, I’m happy. If I can distract people from their daily responsibilities by transporting them to a time when they felt more childlike and free, I’m happy. Color evokes a spectrum of emotions. I hope to evoke an authentic emotional reaction with my photography. I’m especially thrilled when people tell me that they find my work inspiring and, because of it, they want to try something new.
Does the equipment you use help you in achieving your vision in your photography? (What camera do you use? Do you have a preferred lens/focal length?)
I use a Nikon D7200 for most of my images, and I have several lenses. I’d say most of the time I am using my Nikon 18-300mm lens. When I’m shooting macro, I’m usually using my Sigma 60mm lens. At some point, I plan on transitioning to mirrorless and look forward to carrying a camera that is lighter.
What are some of your goals as an artist or photographer? Where do you hope to see yourself in five years?
One of my goals is to finally have a website. Every now and again I get asked if a photo is for sale, so I figure I'd get some content online. I’ve been working towards this goal for the past several months. It’s been a grueling process. I look forward to when I’m finally finished. I also plan on shooting several series of images and joining at least one supportive online community. There’s something very empowering and motivating about spending time with creatively like-minded people. I’d also like to be part of some gallery exhibits and to be published in print magazines.
“When I am not out photographing, I (like to)…
Listen to music; spend time with family, both human and furry; and get my 10,000 steps in for the day."