Interview #43: Elijah Majeski

6/4/11

CUS: First of all, the most standard question in the book: how did you get into photography?

Elijah Majeski: At around the age of ten I became really fascinated with art and music and things like that, and I just started to sketch all the time. One way or another I found this super-cheap mini-camera that barely worked and began to take photos of my house and yard and family. My parents saw that I liked it so much and got me a point-and-shoot digital camera at age 12 and I started teaching myself from there. I ended up buying the Nikon D40 with my Confirmation money in 8th grade, and from there I got a little more serious and what was a little fascination became a passion.

Getting into photography was more of a coincidence than anything else, I don't know what actually motivated me to start, I just was gravitated to it for some reason. 

 

CUS: Tell us a little about where you live.

EM: I live in a completely brown house (inside and out, my mom really likes the color) in typical suburbia. I am about an hour or so north of Detroit. Nothing to exciting, really, a lot of strip malls and houses and highways. There are little patches of countryside and farms and things throughout my area, but it's all a bit strange because they pop up in the middle of really developed areas. Little green blotches. It's kind of a romantic idea, I guess. 

Even though I don't live anywhere all too lively, I really enjoy Michigan, life is pretty peaceful and nice. Our lakes and parks are really beautiful and there's a lot of great camping. It's a nice place to grow up and a nice place to grow old, I think. 

 

CUS: Do you have a favorite photographer?

FJ: Well, there's always Tim Walker, he's a genius really, and a favorite to many I would assume. There's something so magical and beautiful and light-hearted about his photos and I really admire that.

But I also really like past photographers like Irving Penn. I like his style and his voice and the slight eerie nature to his work. 

I really should research more art history in photography; I look at a lot of photographs but rarely know to whom they belong. 

 

CUS: What sort of themes do you try to explore through your photographs? Is there any one in particular in which you try to convey? 

EM: I have always been fascinated by the past and growing up. Lately I have tried to focus on that, on setting apart an atmosphere with just me and family, to have to look back on in the future. My sisters and brother and I are all really close, and they mean a lot to me. I'm the oldest so it's been interesting watching them all grow up, so those themes- of moving from childhood to teen hood and clinging to youth and things like that are things that I like to portray and develop in the future.  

Aside from that, I really like to bend the line between reality and imagination. Ideally I would like to make it so that the tones and moods of my posed photos on sets and things are the same as those in candid moments- so I guess it goes back to creating my own world and bridging the gap between my life and my dreams and imaginings.

I think I have a lot of work to do still, I don't know if these themes are all too apparent yet, but they are what I am currently focusing on.

 

CUS: Do you always have preconceived concepts of what you want to shoot?

EM: No. Not always. Some of my shoots are spontaneous- ideas I get in a fleeting moment. I also really like documenting my summers and my family- so those are usually just in the moment.

However, these past two years I have begun to take planning and pre-production a lot more seriously. I have two notebooks and a sketchbook just filled with ideas for props and shoots and goals and lists- and I spend a lot of time developing these concepts and ideas and atmospheres. Sometimes I'll think of something and write it down or sketch it, and then a month later, an improvement will strike me and I'll add it in. I really like story-boarding, it makes photography a lot more engaging and exciting for me. 

 

CUS: Do you have a favorite subject you like to shoot?

EM: Oh definitely. My sisters. They are both really young (9 and 12) but they are both incredibly artistic and inspired. If I tell them an idea or concept- they get it immediately. They both know how I think, (because I have been taking pictures of them both for half of each of their lives) and understand my directions and ideas. They're really beautiful girls, and have a lot ahead of them. I'll really miss them next year when I go away to college. They're brilliant.

 

CUS: What is your most treasured possession?

EM: My Canon Ae-1. My grandparents gave it to me. I love the camera and I really appreciate the gift, as I could never afford all of the equipment they gave me. My grandparents are two of the sweetest characters, and every time I shoot with it I think of them and them using it to document their lives and it makes me feel like I'm developing something they started (they aren't photographers or artists or anything- they just used it for documentation-family photos and things...)

 

CUS: If you could go anywhere in the world to take photographs where would you go?

EM: Iceland. I think I would love the climate and the countryside is so beautiful. The mountains and the volcanoes and the plains and the houses with the colored roofs all seem so romantic- I really like the atmosphere and the carefree lifestyle they have there- the whole idea of months of day and night- where there really isn't any shift also seems really interesting to me- inspiring and all of that. I actually really hope I get a chance to live there sometime. It's kind of a dream of mine. 

 

CUS: What are some of your favorite films?

EM: Get Low, Winter's Bone, Inception, Shutter Island, The Never Ending Story, Spirited Away, Where the Wild Things Are, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Whip It...

artistic movies like that. 

 

CUS: What’s your fondest childhood memory? 

EM: Going to Disneyworld with my family. It was really fun and I didn't have any cares in the world during that point. I really love my family and we don't get to go on big vacations like that very often, so it was fun riding a plane for the first time I could remember and being somewhat adventurous... 

 

CUS: If every photograph should contain one key element, what would it be in your opinion?

EM: Personal voice. I think there are more photographers than ever coming out of the wood work and I think it's good to set yourself apart, in one way or another- whether it's style, composition, or subject matter, I think it's good to make something your own and have it remain consistent in your photos. 

 

CUS: Where does your inspiration usually come from?

EM: It's hard to say, a lot of times the simplest things are really inspiring to me. I like to just watch people, strangers or friends or whatever, and see the ways they interact with each other and the world around them. I am a watcher and I am really inspired by the way things change and grow and are perceived over time. I like taking in everything around me, not analyzing it or delving in it, but experiencing life and living in the moment. Then through those ideas and feelings and memories I find the most inspiration and motivation.

However, lately, non-visuals, audio and dialogue and words- have all been really inspiring to me. A lot of times I think it's interesting to translate one sense into another- take the way a story makes you feel or think about- whether it's directly related to the text or personal experience or whatever- and then shoot from that place or feeling.

 

CUS: What are your other hobbies besides photography?

EM: I run a lot, for personal exercise and sports- I also love to read- especially poetry. I do continue to sketch from time to time- but not as much as I'd like. I also really enjoy stretching and daydreaming. I'm also really involved in my school and church. 

 

CUS: What are your plans for the summer?

EM: Lots of camping and time on the beach-hopefully. And shoots, shoots, shoots- I have a lot of work to get done, and a lot of ideas and I need to take advantage of these next three months because I won't have very much free time next year- school is so time consuming for me. 

My family is also going to New York this year to visit art colleges. I really can't wait to go.

 

CUS: Our last interviewee, Maria Kazvan, wants to know: What is success for you

EM: Being truly happy and content with my work, using the talents that God has blessed me with as much and to the fullest extent possible. Success has nothing to do with money or fame with me- I really don't think either matter all too much. I just love to make art and I would consider a life of doing so successful, regardless of what I accomplish. 

 

CUS: Last but not least, what would you like to ask our next Interviewee?

EM: Oh Gee...

What did you dream about last?

Elijah Majeski, b. 1994, from the suburbs of Metro-Detroit, Michigan
flickr.com/photos/elijamerica

elijahmajeski.com

Images provided by Elijah Majeski. All rights reserved.