Interview #29: Ella May Bailey


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

Ella May Bailey: Well, I had a sort of fashion blog where I took photos of my outfits when I was 13, and then I got into the Flickr scene and it sort of grew from there, by looking at other people's photos and wanting to improve. 


CUS: Tell us a little about where you live.

EMB: I live in the middle of nowhere in the French countryside, which is very cold in winter and very hot in summer. It's a really beautiful place; on clear nights you can see the milky way and there are beautiful secret places like hidden lakes and abandoned houses. I'm so lucky to live here.


CUS: Do you have a favorite photographer?

EMB: No. I have about a hundred! I have heaps of favorites among my friends on Flickr, they are my endless inspiration. And then of course there is Tim Walker, and I also love Saga Sig (, Rachel Louise Brown ( (who I have been lucky enough to converse with!), Ellen Rogers (, and Elena Kholkina (


CUS: If you could photograph any person (past or present) who would you choose?

EMB: My great grandmother and her twin sister. They were incredibly beautiful and I have an endless fascination with twins. When I stay at my grandmother's house in England I spend hours at a time looking through old black and white photos of them as teenagers in the 30's.


CUS: Do you believe that with the rise of digital photography the phrase “everyone can be a photographer” is true?

EMB: It depends what you mean by "photographer". Anyone can take a photograph, but then it depends whether you consider it art or not. Everyone has their personal tastes and whether or not the photo could be called "art" is in the eye of the beholder, I suppose.


CUS: What equipment do you use? 

EMB: I have fifteen cameras, but I only use three! I use my DSLR: a sony A200, my analogue SLR: a Nikon F70, and my polaroid land camera. I also use my tripod which is very heavy and has given me many a bruise on my shins, and then I have a load of filters and my remote and things.


CUS: What is your most treasured possession? 

EMB: It's taken me a very long time to answer this because I own so many lovely things, but I think I'll say my copy of Tim Walker's "Pictures." It was a gift from my parents this past Christmas and it's like having a perfect fairytale world displayed in front of me in pictures. It's also lovely learning about the pictures themselves and how they were produced. It's so inspiring; it makes me want to grab my camera and take pictures just like that. I've sort of grown up with Tim Walker's photos . . . I made scrapbooks out of my mother's old Vogues when I was little, and I remember seeing quite a few of Tim Walker's shoots, I just didn't know who he was.


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

EMB: Versailles. I don't think I need to explain!


CUS: Tell us a little about your family.

EMB: Well, I live with my parents, and I'm an only child. My mother is a dressmaker, and when she was my age she worked for the British designer Zandra Rhodes (who is impossibly awesome and has pink hair), and then she was a fashion buyer before just doing private work. She is definitely my ultimate inspiration! My father is an electrician and he is also freakishly tall. 


CUS: What is your favorite photograph that you’ve taken, and what’s the story behind it?

EMB: That's really difficult, since I change my mind all the time. I think it would probably be this one. I took it on a trip back to the UK last summer, that will always remain dear in my memory. This particular day was spent in the company of my mother's parents and my father's mother and we went to a castle in the English countryside together. It was the perfect day out, and it seemed to sum up the perfectness of my trip. It was also the first time I used a film SLR, and something was just right about it (the noise the shutter made was also wonderful).


CUS: What’s have you always wanted to photograph but have thought was too hard or difficult to execute? 

EMB: Other people! 99% of my photos are of me, simply because all of my photo shoots with models fail. I'm excruciatingly shy, and even if the models are my friends I find it hard to tell them to do the things I want. 


CUS: What was the last movie you saw in the theatre?

EMB: An independent film about Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky. It was not as good as the lovely one with Audrey Tatou!


CUS: Who, or what, is your biggest influence?

EMB: My mother and my two grandmothers. They are all so selfless. I wish I could be like that.


CUS: What are your other hobbies besides photography?

EMB: I like to draw, and paint. I write a lot, and I spent a lot of my time with my head in a book. I also like to sew, but I'm not really very good.


CUS: Our last interviewee, Brooke Shaden, wants to know:  If you had to group all of your photographs together and name the group as a whole, what would the title be? 

EMB: "Photographs of me in my world"


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

EMB: Do you find your best shoots are the ones that are planned, or ones that are more impromptu?

Ella May Bailey from Britain / France


Images provided by Ella May Bailey. All rights reserved.