Photo by Lily Seibert

“I myself am terrified in front of a camera, so empathy comes easily.”

I became a photographer in Paris by accident when a friend handed me his SLR and showed me how to use it. Photographing Paris was a way to capture the memories and feelings of the year gone by. Returning to New York and my studies in literature, I took night classes at the International Center of Photography and assisted a well known portrait photographer. I studied the work of Diane Arbus, August Sander, Richard Avedon and many many others.

 

My first photography job was for the LA Times, shooting everything under the sun – art, theater, dance, demonstrations, food, homeless shelters… and lots of people. 

I was, and continue to be, attracted to not only their faces, but their vulnerability and their generosity. To photograph them is to know them, and it is that connection that excites me most about my work.

 

Making portraits is a way to a deeper understanding of people’s stories and my job is to make my subjects – reclusive author, corporate CEO, artist, movie star, rock star, Bulgarian peasant, a former president or current one - feel safe enough to show themselves. As in Paris, the photographs themselves become souvenirs, reminding me of an intimacy that transpired and was captured by my shutter.

Read more about Elena in this Barnard Magazine article.

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