Hi Ella! Tell us a bit about yourself …
I’m an artist, working mainly with photography, and I do some installation/video work as well. I show my work in galleries, as well as festivals/events of various kinds. I also teach photography to kids and adults at Arts Umbrella and Focal Point and do some freelance graphic-design work.
Cool! What are some of your favourite things to photograph?
I have been shooting landscapes for the past while, but I’m looking for new subject matter. I was in Iceland last year and the landscape there is so bizarre and spectacular. I like shooting nature, or intersections of nature and civilization, and making them look surreal in some way, so the Icelandic landscape was perfect for this. I also did a project last year at a residency in Nova Scotia where I turned a room into a pinhole camera and made some images from it; I’m doing more pinhole photography now.
What inspires you and your artwork?
A lot of things are inspiring, and I think Henry Miller summed it up best: “Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music – the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.”
When did you first start practicing Bikram Yoga?
I started practicing in 2008 after I graduated from art school in New York. My brother was visiting and he was really into Bikram Yoga at the time, so he convinced me to try it out. I mainly just went out of curiosity, but it immediately started to fix some nasty shoulder pain I’d had for several years, not to mention made me feel good in all sorts of other ways, so I thought I’d better stick with it.
What was that first class like?
It was a Monday 6 p.m. class in NYC. Everybody was crammed into the room, about an inch apart from each other. It was like a mosh pit. I remember in my delirium thinking that the lights above me were the heaters, and sitting down a lot, because I thought they were burning my face. But when I sat down, I felt like I was missing out on all the action, so I got up again and tried to keep going. It was intense.
As an artist, does yoga benefit your creativity in any way?
It does in the sense that it’s a time to not think about anything, but to just listen and be there. This sets me up well to have more mental focus and clarity when I am doing creative work. I find that my best ideas come if I sit down and brainstorm. I don’t believe in relying on random flashes of inspiration. Like yoga, creativity is a practice that you have to develop and maintain.
I once heard Leonard Cohen talking about songwriting, saying that he gets many bad ideas for every good one and that he always writes the bad ideas down because, if he doesn’t, the good ones don’t come. Meaning it’s important in a creative practice to get all the junk in your head out on paper in order for the revelations to happen. Same as in yoga, you show up and work through whatever’s happening in your body, good or bad, in order to make progress.
Is there a connection between your artwork and your yoga practice?
I think my main objective as an artist is to share with people that the world is a really far out, fantastical place. I remember, when I was a teenager, I read the first few Harry Potter books and thought it would be so great to live in a world where people have wands and magical powers. But real life is not very different from that. There are so many amazing things going on around us, and knowing how to use our minds and our intention is literally as good as having magical powers. Yoga seems to be one of the best ways to understand this. It shows you on a concrete, physical level, how big your potential is.
Being an artist (whether that means a visual artist, musician, writer, etc.) means that you are, by default, an entrepreneur. It means you have to balance your creative work with the business of promoting and representing yourself, and it means you usually live with very little structure or security. These are things that take confidence, focus, patience and trust to maintain, and yoga absolutely makes that so much easier.
All of the photos above are, of course, Ella’s, and you can check out more of her work on her website, at www.ellamorton.com.