Ellen Syrjala’s work manages to capture the beauty in the everyday, and that’s part of the reason why photography student is one of our It’s Nice That Graduates this year. Studying at London College of Communication, it’s been a personal mission of hers to see beyond the commercialism of photography. “I chose to go to art school because a photographer once told me at the age of 17 that ‘you cannot succeed as an artist,’” she says. “It’s bollocks. I wanted to prove her wrong, and that there was more to photography than pillow adverts.”
Her time spent at university was immersive. “It was self-initiated, harsh-grading, an in-depth self-exploration through art,” Ellen says. “I found myself, I learned to trust my instincts, I learned to stop looking at other people’s work and through so many photobooks in the library.”
Being based in London meant Ellen had the perfect backdrop for her personal project Market Portraits, and the photographer feels it’s her best project to date. “It taught me that a project can be at several stages simultaneously, and that it can take several different forms… I went with my gut and just photographed what I liked the look of and stopped creating long lists of references to justify what I was doing. Also I just love markets, the people, the colours and the structures!” It’s this natural feel, and the sense of having seized the moment, that works so well in Ellen’s images, especially when the characters she captures offset by the recognisable plastic and pastel stripes of the market stall coverings.
"After a few days I realised, ‘No! This is what I love, it’s what my pupils dilate for!’ From then I told myself to go with my instincts and what I get excited by."Ellen Syrjala
Keeping the concept simple is a lesson Ellen has learned from experience. “My worst project was called Frames of Reality, and it was the first project where I photographed strangers. I was hugely influenced by the philosophical photography concept of a frame within a frame, within a time frame and then an actual frame. I got a tad too excited,” Ellen explains. “And I didn’t take the brave step of asking people to fulfil my vision, barely asking more than ten strangers to pose for me.”
This realisation led to a wider understanding of how she works as a photographer. “When I was planning a group project somebody kept telling me they didn’t like my choice of colour and aesthetic. After a few days I realised, ‘No! This is what I love, it’s what my pupils dilate for!’ From then I told myself to go with my instincts and what I get excited by. Also, don’t work with people who are negative, or don’t appreciate your aesthetic.”
The person Ellen would most like to show her portfolio to is Brazilian photographer Sabastiao Salgado: “I love his directness and his honesty,” Ellen says. “Watching his documentary, The Salt of The Earth was just mesmerising. He and his wife gave up everything to do photography, they travelled the earth the show the world to the world.”
Ellen hopes to adopt this sense of adventure now she’s graduated, and in a year’s time aims to be more confident in her style. “I hope I won’t stifle my creative cravings whatsoever and be brave enough to try again. That I’ll be living everyday in some kind of creative process, and become more solid the more I live with my work.”
We are very pleased that The It’s Nice That Graduates 2015 will once again be supported by Represent Recruitment. The graphic and digital design recruitment specialists have developed a peerless reputation working with designers of all levels and matching them up with the right positions in some of the top agencies around. Represent’s support has helped us grow the Graduate scheme over recent years and we are thrilled they have partnered with us again in 2015.
About the Author
Rebecca became staff writer at It’s Nice That in March 2016 before leaving the company at the end of 2017. Before joining the company full time she worked with us on a freelance basis many times, as well as stints at Macmillan Publishers, D&AD, Dazed and frieze.