In this month's FOUND, we get to know Ellie Pritts, a Chicagoan who specializes in combining her love of music and passion for film by shooting concert photography. Internationally-recognized for her imaginative and vibrant works, Ellie has an impressive resume, attending classes at Chicago's Columbia College and having her work featured in various publications from Vice, Pitchfork, Vans, NPR, Billboard, WIRED, and more. Along with her photography, Ellie is the founder of the world's first collaborative photo-editing app known as Hippo.
Check out our interview below on her influences, favorite collaborations, and what she's working on now. Be sure to follow Ellie on Instagram @elliepritts, Twitter @elliepritts, and Facebook @ellieprittsphotography to keep up with and see more of her work.
Sir The Baptist
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Ellie Pritts. I'm a photographer and founder of the photography app Hippo.
When did you become interested in photography? What got you started?
I first started taking photography classes when I was 14. I was encouraged by my father, who was a photojournalism major. He's a motion graphics animator now. He was responsible for all of my initial interest in photography and got me my first film camera, a Minolta X-570, that I still use.
What’s your background?
Prior to making a career out of photography, I was working to become a professional musician. I'm a classically trained cellist and, very briefly, attended college for that. I was always struggling to decide between music and photography. I guess that's how I ended up becoming primarily a music photographer.
When did you realize your talent?
Well, I still feel like I have a long way to go. I've had to work really hard to get where I am today. I'm honestly not sure if I owe more to my work ethic or my "talent."
Describe your creative process.
I'll get an idea in my head and I just have to do it, I guess. I tend to work best on the fly with little planning in advance. I like the challenge of that. I spend much more time feeling out how I want to edit an image than I do actually taking it.
What are your favorite mediums to work with?
I've recently re-ignited my passion for shooting film. I only shot film for the first 5 years or so of my photography career. I really missed it. As for editing, I couldn't live without my iPad Pro.
Who or what influences you and your art?
What’s the biggest challenge you face with your work?
My biggest challenge is continuing to grow as an artist and not get too locked into any one aesthetic. Over the years people have told me that they can spot my work very easily, and I'm not sure I really like that. I don't want to be predictable. I'm always trying new things, trying to see things differently and challenging myself to work outside my comfort zone. It's not easy.
What are you working on now?
I've started a project in memory of my late uncle, Tom Pritts, who passed away this February. He was a really great photographer. He didn't really share much of his work, though. He was a pretty shy, quiet person. I'd heard he was a good photographer from other family members, but I didn't realize just how great he was until I came across his negatives after his death. So, now, my uncle Rob Pritts and I are working on scanning them, and then I edit them creatively.
Any favorite collaborations you’ve done recently?
This project with my late uncle's negatives has been really great. He's gone, but I do feel like we are collaborating. He took these photos decades ago and now I'm editing them and getting them out there. I love it.
Tell us about Hippo. Where does the name come from?
Hippo is a collaborative photography app. Users upload their photos and our community of users can download and edit those photos. Everyone shares everything in the app, which is really great; seeing the before/ after transformations are really incredible. The name is pretty random, it just popped into my head one day. The name Hippo, the purple color scheme, and font, all at once.
How did you get involved with app-making? What was the process like? What’s your favorite thing about it?
I've always been interested in programming. Most of my side projects are some combination of art and technology. I'd never made an app before, so it was a natural next step for me. The process was quite the learning experience! My favorite part was just seeing my mockups come to life.
What’s the next step? What are you hoping to accomplish with your art?
I think the next steps for me involve continuing to experiment, most likely with film. I would also like to have a cohesive body of work to show in a gallery by the end of next year.
What’s been your favorite memory of the work you’ve done?
I think it's still the show we had at the end of my very first photography class. It was a summer program at Columbia College in Chicago. We learned how to present our work for display and had it all hanging up in the museum. I had my final critique from my professor and he really liked my project. It was the first time I remember feeling like I was actually good at something.
What’s the most important part of your process?
Editing—that's what I spend most of my time doing.
Where can we find your work? Do you have any shows coming up?
You can find my work at Transistor Chicago as well as the National Music Centre in Alberta, Canada. Right now I'm also working on an installation art piece called FOUR, the world's first digitally interactive sound temple. It will be premiering at Luminaria on November 11, 2016.
Any favorite bands that you’ve been listening to or seen at a show?
Angel Olsen is my favorite right now. Her latest album is phenomenal, and I had a chance to shoot her at Webster Hall in NYC recently. She was unreal live. She's incredibly talented.
The colors you play with in your photography are incredibly vibrant yet whimsical, almost dream-like. Is color an important characteristic to your work?
Yes, color is definitely important to me. It was a bit of a struggle transitioning from black and white film photography to digital and having color at my disposal. I resisted it at first, but now it's such an important characteristic to my work.
Would you rather be in the woods, or a city? Concert photography or nature?
I'd rather be in the woods, shooting a concert. :P
What’s your favorite part about shooting photos at shows?
I love the energy of a live performance, and I love how technically challenging it can be to shoot a show. You never know what to expect.
What’s been your favorite memory of 2016?
It was a few weeks after I launched Hippo. I was flying home to Chicago and when I landed, I had hundreds of emails waiting for me; my phone was blowing up. I learned Hippo had been featured by Mashable. I was so excited and so proud! It was such a rush.
Anything you’d like to promote?
All photos by Ellie Pritts.
FOUND is a monthly series by Original Fuzz Magazine. We aim to discover visual artists from every corner of the world, no matter the background or creative vision. We believe it's not just what you do, but how you do it. All art is as important to our culture as music, words, news, science, even religion. FOUND celebrates the visual and those who create it, serving as a platform for the creative pioneers who embody Original Fuzz and our products.
FOUND is brought to you by Liz Earle, a freelance writer and purveyor of curiosity and imagination in the arts. If you'd like to be a featured FOUND artist, please send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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