You’ve no doubt seen her photos in the pages of Xtra! newspaper or from one of her many community photo shoots, but Vancouver photographer belle ancell’s biggest passion comes from her portraits.
The featured photo above is of ceramic artist David Robinson as part of belle’s contribution to the 10×10 Photography Project in 2013. Find out more about the 10×10 Project in our Q&A below where we asked belle about what inspired her to becoming a photographer, her photography style and about her upcoming project with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
You can find out more about belle ancell photography online at http://belleancellphotography.com.
Q&A with belle ancell
What brought you to photography?
I’ve always just loved taking pretty pictures. Now it’s more about the relationships I have with the people I photograph and creating something together that didn’t exist before that moment.
How did you get your start?
I’ve been taking photos since I was ten, with point and shoot cameras. I didn’t pick up a pro level camera until 2009. Once I had a DSLR in my hands it instantly became my passion and I began to seriously pursue learning and exploring the possibility of becoming a ‘photographer’.
You’re a self-described “late bloomer” who studied later in life – was it difficult to go back to school as an adult learner?
What was difficult was starting at ground zero with the technical stuff. It was frustrating because I had a vision of what I wanted my images to look like, but didn’t have the technical skill to achieve it. I still feel frustrated at times but I realize that it’s a lifelong learning process and I need to be patient with myself.
What brought you to that decision?
Out of necessity; I was injured at my past job and I needed to be retrained. I also knew that it would take me 10 years on my own to get to the skill level I wanted. It seemed like a good time in my life to become completely immersed in reaching that level.
Your work is described as “intimate portraiture” – why did you choose that particular genre?
It’s more a feeling than a genre for me. I was drawn to this description of my photography because of the intimate connection I feel with the people I photograph. I think I actually kind of fall in love a little with them.
You photograph babies, families, weddings, business portraits and intimates – do you have a preference, and why?
Photographing children is so much fun. For me my deep joy is with my personal projects. They come from my heart and challenge me on many levels.
You have also done some provocative personal series – how do you decide on the subject matter of those series?
I have a rich fantasy life! I have a moleskin book full of thoughts, concepts and photo projects. I get inspiration from other photographers, artists, and people in the community I admire. I want to contribute something that has meaning. I want to create images that are powerful, empowering and beautiful.
Do you have a favorite personal series to date?
The 10×10 Project. I was scared to do it and almost declined the invitation. Here are some of the things I would never have experienced if I’d said no. Collaborating with ten amazing artists. Flying to Toronto for Pride. Seeing my photographs on the walls of the 10×10 Exhibit in Toronto. Having the entire project accepted into the Vancouver Queer Arts Festival and Joe Average was in the same show! Challenging myself to face my fear of failure and creating a body of work I am proud of.
Is there a story that sticks out in your mind during one of your photo shoots?
There are so many fun stories. It’s kind of a running joke that folks usually end up nude at my shoots.
Do you have a photography philosophy?
Don’t FUCK UP and have FUN.
What would your words of advice be to someone looking to get into photography?
Buy a camera, experiment and play and take a few hundred thousand images.
Tell us about your latest project with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
Love the Sisters!! They give so much of themselves to the LGBTQ community and I wanted to create portraits to honour them. The lighting we are using is beautiful and ethereal, as if they stepped through Heavens doors. We are planning a gallery exhibit and debaucherous party for some time later this summer.
15 Quick-fire Questions
Your first job.
The classic teen summer dishwasher job
The job you always wanted as a child.
Your pet peeve.
People who talk on their cell phones and ignore the cashier or clerk who is serving them.
Too many to list.
Your biggest indulgence.
One thing no one knows about you (and you’re willing to share):
I’ve never seen Game of Thrones.
Three things you would want with you on a deserted island.
Toilet paper? I have no idea. LOL
The one word your best friend would use to describe you.
I asked her, she said ‘humble’. Then she said it was a nice way of saying ‘low self-esteem’.
Your life’s motto/mantra.
If you were a breakfast cereal what breakfast cereal would you be?
Gluten free, corn free, dairy free, sugar free and probably contains quinoa.
What will it say on your grave marker?
She had soft skin
Who would you most like to have dinner with?
Me at age 80
Your idea of happiness.
Corduroy on a ski run and disco house on the dance floor
If you could go back in time, what would you tell your twenty year old self?
Start meditating now.
The one thing in your life that makes you most proud.
That I trusted the magic and followed my dreams.