Many artists around us have a work to demonstrate. There are also some people with artistic soul and nothing obvious to demonstrate. We need to have our eyes and hearts open to discover them. Esther Strachan combines these two types of an artist. Being a pianist, a teacher and a photographer she has a lot to offer through her creations.
You are about to read a true and honest interview that will widen your world and perspective of life. You will be able to follow Esther through the links at the end of the interview.
Αν θέλεις να διαβάσεις την συνέντευξη στα Ελληνικά, πάτα εδώ.
1. Tell us a few words about you…What has shaped your life?
In a few words? LOSS. Preparing for, experiencing and coping with loss is the biggest thing that has shaped my life. I was born into a family where we found out my brother had Cystic Fibrosis. At the time, the life expectancy for one with this fatal disease was 14 years old. I lived the early years of my life trying to come to terms and prepare for the loss of my greatest mentor and best friend.
Art was a way to cope and escape emotionally. In those early years I escaped through music, piano playing, drawing and painting. In my early 20s, learning classical piano in a highly structured way through the Royal Conservatory honed my skills and kept me busy (among other things such as teaching music and doing volunteer work).
When I was 29, my brother lost his battle with his disease at the age of 31. That loss, although I was newly married, was the focal point of my entire life up to that point. I finally lost the one person I had been preparing to lose my entire life.
I became numb for years, emotionally not really intentially participating in life. I still taught music. I had an awesome husband and two amazing kids. Yet, through it all, we were all still suffering the loss and trying to recover. At some point we started to realize that something was missing other than my brother.
About 4 years ago, our mentality started to shift. We planned an extensive tour of Europe with our kids that lasted 7 weeks, with one backpack for each of our family members. England, Paris, Italy (Venice, Rome, Florence–with all the artists that I had loved and had learned about in highschool), Greece (Santorini, Mykonos, Paros, Chios). My senses were stunned.
Within the first few days I had already taken thousands of shots–something that was entirely new to me. My family knew something was different for me within the first week. 13,000+ shots later, we knew what had happened–photography had made me come alive. It had made me take notice of the beauty in the world around me. It was the spark that I needed to wake me up. It is my “now”–being in the moment.
2. What is photoshooting for you?
It’s capturing an experience. Freezing a subject that has captured my eye and attention. It is the experience of being fully alive, being 100% mentally present.
I think an artist is on a journey at any given moment, like every human being. I am still learning about who I am.
3. Where do you get ideas for your work?
From my surroundings. I pick up the camera, go somewhere and see what presents itself – what inspires me. Sometimes it’s the beauty in architecture, the symmetry in the natural world or the expression captured on one’s face. I really do not know what I will find until I have found it. It’s like an adventure or surprise waiting to happen. I start a photoshoot without knowing the outcome, but once I have the shot, I can see the purpose of the entire shoot.
4. Why are you doing what you are doing? Solitude, creativity, or loneliness?
I love it. It makes me feel and come alive and actively search for beauty in daily life. It allows me to be and express my creativity. It gives me pleasure in solitude, even though I love to interact and have meaningful conversations with people. It provides neuroplasticity for my brain which is a subject I have loved to research over the last few years.
Even though I still experience pangs of sadness that come along with facing my early years and the loss of my brother, I have always tried to pursue natural ways of feeling better, whether healthy food choices, exercising reguraly, etc.
Photography helps my brain. I call it my cognitive behaviour therapy, my being in the moment so I don’t live in the past.
5. Is there something you want to pass though your work?
The EXPERIENCE that I had in that particular moment as represented by the photograph.
6. Do you think an artist is consciously trying to spread a message or is it something that comes later?
I think an artist is on a journey at any given moment, like every human being. I am still learning about who I am. I think an artist is expressing the way he or she see things, as represented in their work. Sometimes messages come. Sometimes it’s just being and doing – with no words or explanation.
At times in life I had the goal of mentoring. Being for others what I needed for myself all those years. Lately, I’m listening more and learning to allow people the dignity of walking their own journey with all the outcomes that come with it.
I guess for me, at this point in my life, I am not trying to spread a message through my photographs, just my experience in any given moment.
7. What is the artist’s role in society: Do you think he/she can have a role in modern society?
Very interesting question. The basic definition of an artisit is a person who produces works in any of the arts. I feel an artist must strive to be themself, especially in their creations, and to be true to themselves when they share their work.
So much of my life and musical career has been in studying past artist’s lives and recreating their masterpieces, which I have thoroughly loved (classical music). However, sometimes I wonder if this has stifled my own artistic creativity – as a musician at least.
I used to hear and compose Greek lyric music in my late teens (even though I was born and raised in Canada), but when I started studying through a specific method of training, I lost much of that original natural creativity. It’s funny, I composed music early in life before I knew how to “write” music “correctly,” if that makes sense.
So, now I feel that an artist has to balance what he learns as far as styles of other artists while at the same time maintaining his own art form and sense identity.
Also, there is a high standard of near perfection expected with classical music performance and training, which has led me to hesitate in performing publicly. I would like to maintain a joyous attitude as regards to my photography.
I think an artist’s role in society is learn to have the courage to be themselves in their work, to express their own art without being bound or stifled by the population around them. To learn to express their art purely, before the monetary reward enters the picture.
As regards my photography as a means of artistic expression, I have to remind myself to refocus on my own art work at times, my own vision, and to try to not let THAT be diluted and shaped by what people may like or reward (through “likes” on social media for example).
There’s a big difference between sharing the photos that I love versus being motivated to post photos that are audience driven. My wish is to not repeat what happened as regards to my music with photography. I want to discover my true artistic style and potential as regards photography.
So yes, I do think an artist can have a role in society. I think we need artists. There’s so many new gadgets, new technologies… but you can’t produce an artist on an assembly line. An artist and their work is a gift to society, and unfortunately, like many of the great artists of the past, they are sometimes more appreciated when they are gone than when they are alive.
As an artist, when I share what inspired me, deep down I quess I am curious as to whether someone will feel the same thing I felt in that moment–people uniting in a shared experience.
7. Would you like to make a living from your art? (if you do not already)
Another great question. Art and monetary reward. I already make a living from one of my artistic passions – teaching music for 22 years. However, photography is helping me to get in touch with my first love. Drawing and painting preceeded my love of music.
During an art exhibit in highschool in which our work was featured, my parents asked my teacher if she felt I could make a career out of art (I had the highest marks for a couple of years in the subject…which showed I had at least some potential).
Her answer to them was basically “no.” Looking back now, I can see that I added too much weight and importance to her words and outlook. It changed the direction of my entire career choice within just a few sentences.
Photography is now helping me get in touch with my true love of art. Although I do not have the patience to paint at the moment, photography allows me to capture what inspires me, alter it to my own liking, and present it through my view.
If that appeals to an audience, I would welcome selling my prints as photo art. If I could make a living selling my work, that would be a bonus to my experience. At the moment, I have only explored the phase of taking the photographs and sharing them.
“Esthesis” for me represents all of my senses being fully activated, rapid firing, which represents my mentality when I take photographs. FEELING something, because the alternative is no longer an option!
8. Your favourite shot and why?
When we went to Europe about 4 years ago, I couldn’t wait to get home to see how one specific shot in England would appear (my camera didn’t have a great display). I just knew after the 13,000+ pictures I had taken, that that one would be my favourite.
I had never been to England, but the sheer vibrancy of the colours I saw, combined by the majesty of the city, impacted me. England STUNNED me and my senses. Upon coming home, I was not disappointed. Kevin, my husband, surprised me by ordering that shot as a canvas print for our home.
His belief in my work by that single jesture opened my eyes to the outcome of one’s love in printed form and the value someone could place on it. When my neice saw this canvas print, she said “THAT’S WHAT I WANT AS A WEDDING PRESENT!!” And, that is what I ordered for her wedding day.
9. The most odd comment or criticism you have recieved?
“Put down your camera–be in the moment!” or “I hope when you go on vacation you don’t just take pictures.” I can understand their intentions in saying these things.
At the same time, at the moment they say this, I truly believe they can’t grasp what photograhy does for me. I AM experiencing the moment when I take photos. I have to remind myself that the reality I live in is not theirs.
10. Does negative criticism affect you?
I’m not oblivious to it. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t. I try to remind myself that people are entitled to their opinion. We do not all have the same outlooks.
We all have different backgrounds that shape not only what we say to others but also our general mentality and disposition in life. I just try to keep it in perspective, trying to show compassion while being true to myself. It’s not always easy.
11. Your favourite phrase lately?
“What you see is what you get.” My friend Dudley says it all the time. It reminds me to stop having expectations of others and accepting reality for what it is, not what I would like it to be.
12. If your life was a movie, which would it be?
La La Land. I’ld be a combination of both main characters. Love it. I’m still a dreamer.
13. Why did you pick the word “Esthesis” to represent your photography?
It’s a Greek word and I have been reconnecting with my roots of late. I have been tired of “anesthesia” – not feeling. “Esthesis” for me represents all of my senses being fully activated, rapid firing, which represents my mentality when I take photographs. FEELING something, because the alternative is no longer an option!
You can follow and get in touch with Esther Strachan through the following links:
Facebook page: Esthesis Photography
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Every thought is an infinitesimal version of myself now. In fact, I am what I haven’ t thought and what I haven’t even imagined yet. But this is also being played …
Ilias Apostolou – Handyman philologist.