"Smoke and Mirrors," 2010
Looking at one of Ellie Davies' photographs takes you to the edge of an enchanted forest humming with the possibility of fantastical things about to happen. Many of the images are from a place right out of the pages of a fairy tale—New Forest, which is an area of wooded land, heathland and pasture in southern England dating back to medieval times. Davies grew up in a thatched cottage near here with twin sister, with whom she spent many hours doing what is now a luxury to many—exploring the woods.
"Sometimes we'd play and we'd feel really safe and have a lot of fun and build dens and camps, but there are also risks and fears," she explains. "I went to a lot of different places in my imagination ... perhaps I'm drawing on that atmosphere." She finds that many people's response to her work is to be transported back to their own childhoods—to a state where anything is possible and magic exists.
Davies has produced several series since focusing on this theme, all building off of each other. The forest is her studio and her inspiration. The ideas come to her from walks or drives through the woods, when her mind is open to unexpected connections. In some of her projects, she introduces elements into the scene—plumes of smoke, painted branches, pathways of ferns, or, in her series “Stars," photographs of galaxies superimposed over forest glens. In others she focuses on elements that are already there, using bodies of water, for example, to guide our eye.
Her frames are intentionally devoid of people or creatures—the landscape itself is the character, open to our interpretation. "It creates that experience of walking into [a world] that's just for you. It's the feeling you get when you step inside the boundary of a woodland. It is cool, quiet—you can feel something instinctive. It's not a sense we have a word for. It's really magical. I think everyone craves that a bit."