Ellie Mitchell is a photographer and videographer based in the UK. Since sixteen years of age, she’s committed herself to her craft; her resilience has paid off as she’s established herself as a hard-working content creator. She’s worked alongside many artists, touring with bands in the rock music scene and documenting their stories through her creative perspective. Some of these notable acts include Sleeping With Sirens, Movements, Nothing More, In This Moment, and Motionless In White.
Continue reading to learn more about Ellie, For The Punks’ December 2020 Creator of the Month! This interview covers a variety of topics, including her goals, inspirations, advice for other aspiring artists, and more.
What sparked your interest & made you want to pursue a creative path, & decide on photography as your medium?
When I was 16, a family friend had a camera that they let me have a go with when they were visiting and that sparked my interest into photography itself. As a teenager, I always loved music and going to shows. I found photographers such as Adam Elmakias and Josiah Van Dien’s work inspirational and it really got me thinking that this is something I wanted to do. I’d always been creative in school and I knew this is something I could achieve if I worked hard.
I did have a big love for fashion photography too when I first started out (and still do) and I would be shooting portraits with friends frequently. This love led on to me going to university and getting a bachelor’s degree in fashion photography.<p>Who are some artists (photographers, musicians, etc.) that have inspired you and your work?
With having a love for music and fashion photography, my inspirations vary. At the beginning, Adam Elmakias was my main music photography inspiration; at the time, when I first started 9 years ago, it wasn’t such a well known career path and there definitely weren’t as many popular music photographers as there are now.
However, when it came to fashion and portrait stuff, a list of my inspirations would be Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon, Rankin, Lara Jade, Norman Jean Roy, and so many more. Although my photo path has changed over the years, I still love looking at their work.
You’ve had the opportunity to work with so many incredible bands & artists and experience tour life. How did you get your start in the music industry?
I first started out shooting at my old local venue in Norwich, UK. It wasn’t a heavy traffic music city so being able to shoot shows was always exciting (and still is). I had my first business cards when I was 16. I would hand them out to band members after their set when they came to the merch table so I had a point of contact for them to see my work.
I just kept doing that until I got to the point of being friends with these people. They would guest list me with a photo pass whenever they came through the city I used to live in.
Being able to tour was a huge step and I’m so grateful to every band and crew member along the way that believed in my work and in giving me the chance to prove myself.
What do you focus on when you’re shooting, and what do you hope people take away from your work?
I find this quite an interesting question because if you had asked me when I first started out, I would have said everything because I was so focused and panicked on not missing anything. I took far too many photos out of being in pure panic because of the pressure I put on myself.
However, over the years, I’ve learned to read the body language of artists and can most of the time guess when they are going to do that next jump or which part of the stage they’re going to. I also love watching the crowd enjoying the show. It fills me with joy.
One thing I haven’t really talked about is how I have disassociation, and in the last couple of years, I started to realise that my memory would be blank at the end of a show and I had no clue if I had taken good photos or not haha. Disassociation is something I’m still trying to navigate when it comes to shooting shows, but I won’t let it put me down.
Through all of your photography experience, what is the most important thing you have learned about yourself?
I would say that if anything, I’ve learnt that I’m resilient. I don’t often share the stuff that I deal with personally; throughout the years I thought my depression would win and in fact, on some tours in 2018 and 2019 I was dealing with suicidal thoughts very often.
I am proud of myself and how my career has helped shape me into the person I am today. I am more than my mental health issues and despite everything I’ve battled, I know I’ve worked hard to achieve my goals. Talking about mental health is important to me and if me sharing my experiences can help reduce the stigma around it, then I will keep on sharing.
If you had to describe your creative journey in only three words, what would those three words be?
Challenging, growing and rewarding.
What is your favorite photo from the past few years and can you share the story & creative process behind it?
Now this is a difficult question! I take so many photos and they all have different meanings to me. The most recent one I’ve thought “hell yeah I did that!” has to be the jumping photo of Lamb of God on main stage at Download Festival 2019. I remember I did a mini fist bump and excited dance when I reviewed the photo on the back of my camera.
What excites you to create? What helps you in the moments whenever you are feeling uninspired and stagnant?
Definitely the people I work for and the environments we find ourselves in. I just love taking pictures of people – it doesn’t matter who, I just love it.
If I’m ever feeling uninspired, I will watch movies that I know are aesthetically pleasing. I will sometimes just scroll on Pinterest and make some boards of things I like the look of; whether that be how something is lit, the colours in a photo, the poses, or it just gives me a good feeling.
How do you survive your bad days?
Antidepressants haha. On a more serious note, I would say medication has helped me a lot. Obviously, it’s not for everyone, but for me it’s been essential. I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and social anxiety from the age of 13 – which is almost half of my life – I’ve had to navigate to find what works for me. I highly recommend therapy if you are able to access it. It can be hard work, but so rewarding.
I would also say that if you need to cry, have a good cry! If you need to stay in bed to watch tv shows and movies until the bad day eases up, then do that too. I think we’re too hard on ourselves and don’t allow ourselves to have those bad days.
However, I also think it’s important to acknowledge that it might be a bad day today, but they won’t all be bad, so you have to keep fighting the negative thoughts and get back up and try again the next day.
What do you think is the most challenging part of being a photographer today? What do you find the most rewarding?
The pressure and scrutiny we put on ourselves I definitely think is a very challenging thing to deal with, at least in my experience. With the music photography market being far more saturated versus when I first started out, it can be difficult to make those first steps of standing out and proving your value to a client.
Another thing is being able to stand up for ourselves in situations we feel that we’re not being treated fairly in. Whether that’s giving a client a contract for the first time, negotiating pay, or addressing bullying on tour, all of that can be intimidating if you’re doing it for the first time.
However, as scary as all of that can sound, it is such a rewarding career. When I see an artist or client stoked on the work I’ve shot for them, it makes me happy. Knowing that they’ve trusted me enough to create something for them is such a wonderful feeling.
How do you effectively manage your time and balance everything on your heavy workload?
Pre-planning as much as I can before a tour is a huge one. I like to get all of the dropbox folders made for each show within one central folder. This means I can pass the link on to the band members, management, and PR team before the tour starts, so everyone knows where to go.
I also love writing lists. I take a notepad and pen with me on tour, as I find that better than just writing a list in my phone. Although I will still use the notes app on my phone if I’m on the go.
On tour the key is to edit ASAP. You have to have a fast turnaround, as social media is such a huge deal now. Often, if you’re on a UK or Europe tour with an American band, you will have deadlines for different time zones, so it’s important to be aware of those and get your work done as quick as possible.
What would you say is your biggest accomplishment so far in your career?
Well, if you’d have asked me at the beginning of the year and COVID didn’t exist, then I would say that working with my first pop artist Kim Petras was a huge accomplishment. I was booked to do Coachella and a 5 week UK and Europe arena tour, which would have been my first time doing both of those things. I’m still proud of being booked for them and I know in the future when life is a bit more normal that I will still be doing cool stuff.
Some things I’m proud of doing that I have done is being on Warped Tour three years in a row, and also getting to photograph for Slipknot at Download Festival 2019. I’m so thankful for every opportunity – each job holds a special place in my heart.
How have you been holding up with everything that is going on in our world right now?
I’m doing ok. I think during the beginning of all the COVID stuff, I definitely was super upset about how my year was going to be the best year of my career and it had all been taken away beyond my control.
However, now I’m definitely in the mindset of accepting the things I can’t change, and focusing on what I can do. This whole experience has made me appreciate every photo thing I am still able to do during this time. I’ve found more time to work on personal and commercial work, which is great because it means I’m adapting and expanding the work I’m able to do.
What did your day-to-day life look like prior to COVID? What does your daily life look like now?
Prior to COVID, I was gearing up for my biggest photo year yet, making all of the dropbox folders ready to go. I would spend a good chunk of time in America where my partner lives or on tour. This is the most I’ve been home in years!
I decided to get a part time job whilst photo work isn’t as often as pre-COVID. I enjoy working and routine is something I find that helps my mental health. I don’t think there should ever be any shame in getting a job whilst you work on your career. Do what makes the most sense for the situation you’re in.
What are your thoughts on the future of the music industry as of right now? Do you ever see live music returning to its full state before the pandemic?
I don’t think we’ll ever return to “normal.” I think we will learn to adapt to a new normal and that’s ok. I know people are wishing it could be normal again and it may get mostly of the way there, but I think we all have to be a lot more selfless and caring for others for it to work. That’s one thing about the pandemic – it’s forced people to be more aware of how they are around other people, and that’s something we can always work on.
I can see myself having a little cry during my first show back. It’s going to be a beautiful time when we get there.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Don’t be a d*ck, and treat people how you would like to be treated. Pretty simple pieces of advice, but honestly some of the things that have stuck with me over the years.
A quote that I love and have saved in my phone is, “The steps you need to take don’t have to be big, they just need to be in the right direction.”
It helps me when I feel like things are progressing slowly and to not focus on the negative.
Describe your biggest dream.
I would love to travel more of the world, continuing the job I love with people that I care about.
Breaking into the pop world is definitely a huge goal of mine.
What are your accomplishments in 2020 so far? What do you hope to accomplish in 2021? Are there any to-do and/or bucket list items that you hope to accomplish?
Some of my biggest accomplishments for 2020 including getting booked for Coachella and my first arena tour. I’ve gained new clients through exploring and adapting the types of photography I do now whilst the music world is limited.
For 2021, I would love to have another crack at breaking into the pop world. I know it’ll happen as long as I put in the work and stay true to myself and my values.
A bucket-list thing would be traveling to places I’ve never toured before such as Japan, Australia, and a whole bunch of other places.
What advice would you offer to other creatives who want to follow in your footsteps and chase after their dreams?
The best thing you can do is just to start. Practice as much as you can, whether that’s taking photos of your pets, family members, or your friends (socially distanced and wearing a mask).
Try making a website and get social media accounts set up, even if you aren’t quite ready to post just yet, at least you have them ready to go.
Referring to a point I made earlier, don’t be a d*ck. Half of the battle of booking clients is based on you as a person and not just your work.
There are also lots of resources online on YouTube or blogs, so now is the perfect time to read up, improve, and practice new things.
Nothing is easy in life and this will all take time, so you have to be realistic. Some people find that touring isn’t for them and that’s ok. There’s many roles in the music industry and until you try, you’ll never know.
If you don’t put in the effort, then someone else will.
Go out and give it a go – you could end up finding something you love doing.
One last message for our readers would be…
Stay safe, wear a mask, socially distance when possible, stay humble, and treat people with kindness.