Interview with EJ Hassan for 2022 CCP Summer Salon
Photography by EJ Hassan
EJ Hassan is an emerging Melbourne-born photographic artist living and working on the land of the Bunurong/Boonwurrung people. Since being gifted a camera at age nine, photography has been EJ's tool for taking a pause in a fast passed world.
We talk to EJ about how biophilia informs the photographic narrative and what photography has taught EJ about how to live.
Hello, what is your name and background?
EJ Hassan: My name is EJ Hassan. I am a Melbourne born, emerging, photographic artist, currently living and working on the land of the Bunurong/Boonwurrung people. My work seeks to explore the abstract realm between documentary and art photographies, centering my attention on the image making process, often within my own family. I focus predominantly on the politics of identity and memory, specifically related to motherhood and youth. Given a camera at age nine by a family friend, it instantly became a part of me and how I processed the world. Looking back, I think it was my way of being able to take a breath and slow down in my chaotic world...it feels the same today. For the past 20 years, I have been a teacher and last month, I graduated from Photography Studies College completing my BA in Photography (Art).
What is the story behind your submitted works?
EH: Each image comes from a larger, ongoing body of work named 'Carolyn'. In this series, I have used photography to examine my experience of mothering my twin boys, whilst understanding what it is to be mothered myself. There has been a lot of research and reflection when considering my maternal lineage, and in essence I am questioning legacy and the importance of sharing memories. Whether they are obvious or not, metaphors are also something I love to explore. There is always a reference to time, a current social or political issue and my experience in the world. Most of the work I create is very personal and as a result I like to shoot both digital and analogue, I choose what feels right for the moment.
What does photography teach you about how to live?
EH: To slow down, look and listen and consider perspective. I like the idea of thinking about what an image represents in history, how my photographs will be interpreted in years to come and the dialogue that will take place, especially when they are presented in a series. I am very passionate about the continual process of learning, and I believe art can teach us so much, even if it is decades later.
Which is stronger to you the influence of people or the influence of place?
EH: I would say that both people and place play an extremely important part in my process and practice, it is hard to say one is stronger than the other. The eldest of five, as a child I grew up in the outer suburbs surrounded by bush; snakes and spiders were a regular occurrence and swimming in the local river with my siblings consumed my childhood Summers. Today, I live close to the ocean and continue to spend a lot of time outdoors with my family. Currently, I am teaching sustainable education and art, this informs much of my photographic work as I have a huge interest in biophilia; how humans connect to the living world. My most recent work has seen me revisit the history of my female ancestors, where they lived and how this impacted their lives as mothers. When I look at my photographs, I can see both people and place influence equally, they inform one another and help me delve deeper.
Has your use of social media changed or influenced the way that you create, share or view your work?
EH: Yes, it has definitely changed over time. When Instagram began, I very quickly moved away from Facebook, as I loved the idea of sharing images without having to give an explanation, the image could be the story or conversation. Over time it has evolved, sometimes I have grown with it, other times not so much. I have met a lot of wonderful artists and educators through social media; this has definitely influenced the way I create, share and view my work and their work. I feel so grateful for this, as some are on the other side of the world and lead very different lives...it is a constant source of learning and inspiration.
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