Ellie Smart

University: Falmouth University

Graduation: 2016

Websitewww.elliesmart.co.uk

Statement: “Gaea -  The Great Goddess. the spirits, deities and elements are part of her as is everything that lives on the planet. I believe that all life is sacred and that my needs are never of greater nor lesser importance than the needs of any other living being, either animal or plant.” - Janet Bliss 

Gaea is a photographic project that explores Paganism in the UK through a collection of pre-Christian religions and spiritualties. The book follows people on their pathways through Paganism, which aims to generate a positive discussion about an often misunderstood way of life. 

“Paganism is not concerned primarily with the unusual or supernatural, but with the miracle of ordinary life in all its facets.”

Gaea photobook

Gaea photobook

I have spent months documenting and immersing myself within the Pagan community in order to gain an insight and shed light onto a lesser known religion. The project began as part of my final year at Falmouth University on the Press and Editorial Photography course. I graduated from the course in September 2016 and have been continuing the project since. 

 
From the series Gaea

From the series Gaea

 

What is your favourite photobook by another photographer? My favourite photo book is Kalpesh Lathigra’s Lost In The Wilderness. As both a project and book it is something I am hugely drawn to. Lathigra’s photographic style has always captivated me, and in this book he seems to make everything look so simple, yet the thought and depth behind it is amazing. Also, the cover of the book – textured material and subtlety of the embossed text and symbol is gorgeous!

 
From the series Gaea

From the series Gaea

 

Direction: Having already created an outdoor exhibition for the project, the decision to create something more tangible and conclusive, such as a photobook, was hugely appealing and for the moment, it would help me to draw the project together. I knew at the point of creating the book it wasn’t going to be a finished product, but it helped me to sum up where I had got to and was more of a dummy book for me to help start playing around with layouts, edits, and how I wanted the text to sit with images. It was also a chance for me to show many of those that I had been working with on the project what I had done so far and get their feedback. It was important as it created a benchmark for me to work with and has helped me progress with the project.

Gaea photobook

Gaea photobook

Considerations: I have very limited knowledge in book making but throughout the process I learnt a lot about the tiny things in which needed to be considered. From small things; such as editing images in the right colour space, to experimenting with different papers and how the work changes when it is printed. It was all a completely new learning curve for me, but playing around and making other homemade zines to look at everything from layouts to binding methods is something I found useful to practice!

For me, the concept of the project and book was quite simple, it had to give an insight into Paganism in an informative and different way. The images had to illustrate the text and visa versa. However, I was keen to do this as effectively as possible, I want to add touches from the community, such as poems they had written and illustrations. This got me thinking more about the final version of the book, and how I’d like it to become more collaborative with the Pagan community, allowing art and stories to sit alongside the photos. 

Gaea photobook

Gaea photobook

Inspiration: For me, inspiration comes from a variety of things. I’m not necessarily interested in photography or books, but the subjects themselves, so many of the aspects of the book came from research I did around Paganism. Concepts such as colours, the title, fonts, the type of paper, were more so inspired by my subjects and the environment around them.

 
From the series Gaea

From the series Gaea

 

Advice and Future Goals: Find a good printers and allow for a lot of time! Finding a printers that are happy to work with you through the book making process when things aren’t going how you would like them to is vital. I struggled a lot with this and regret not looking at alternatives. Printing a book isn’t a quick process either, allow for a lot of time and accept a lot of changes will probably need to be made! I would also advise finding someone to work through the book with you too; it’s very easy to get lost in our own work, and getting feedback with layouts and design from someone’s opinion whom you trust is extremely valuable!