Tom Inniss Journalist and podcaster

Interview with Eleanor Leonne Bennett


Eleanor is an internationally award award winning photographer and visual artist, with her work appearing in the Telegraph, The Guardian, The British Journal of Psychiatry and on the covers of books published throughout the world, to name but a few. Her work is highly sought after, with many pieces being exhibited globally, although she has a catalogue of over 60,000 photos.

Voice were lucky enough to get an interview with her, and it can be read below.

Hi Eleanor, I thought we could start with a few quick fire questions:

  • What are you doing right now? Listening to Santigold and replying to these questions. 
  • Who is your favourite band? Blur, some days Gorillaz. Depends on the mood. 
  • What is your primary camera equipment? My superzoom. Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ38. I probably invest far more in the safe storage of my images than the taking of them. 
  • Photo editing software of choice? Irfanview. I like to keep it simple 
  • Do you prefer pepsi or coke? Whatever is on special offer, I’m cheap like that.

Your biography gives an overview of your highly impressive accolades and work, to date, but omitted your age. Are you really only 17?! Your achievements can put adults to shame. 

I’m only 17. I put it down to that I learn really quickly. I don’t think I’m that intelligent, but if something is of interest to me its like I’m put on fast forward in terms of learning

There is a stigma attached to young people whereby adults do not always take us seriously. Have you ever felt this to be a problem professionally? 

I would be far far richer if people could get over the age barrier. I’m really looking forward to being ten years older and people treating the emotions I express as more legitimate. I’d like to make the most of being young but it can get me down. The people I work with say I’m far beyond my years but with first impressions it is hard to put it across without looking pretentious. 

How old where you when you realised you wanted to be a photographer? Did you ever have any other job aspirations? 

I realised that I wanted to become a photographer when individual art projects took too long to finish. I had too many ideas at once to preserve before they fell out of mind. I keep thinking of writing, poetry, directing and becoming an editor. Anything creative really. I’m doing hardly any free work at the moment because I’m trying to find something stable and creative where I’m getting a regular income. I’ve taken on a senior editing job for a magazine recently. I’m learning all the time, and it feels amazing to not just concentrate on photography.

Are you still in education, and if so, how do you balance work, school, and social life? an especially pertinent question given your awesome resume and portfolio?

I’ve been home educated for years and years. I’m very good at being anti-social because my upbringing meant I was alone a lot. I have few friends but many many people I contact about anything. I must have about 10 different people who are able to help me with editing and photoshop; another 50 to help me circulate a press-release within about 5 days. I know someone doing creative work in most continents. I’ve had interviews all around the world. I can contact anyone but I’m very good at concentrating alone and being focused.

Your work has been exhibited across the globe. Do you get to visit each exhibition? Are you taking that time as pure relaxation or do you continue to photograph there too? 

I almost never get to visit my exhibitions unless I can literally walk and visit them. I have friends all around the UK who work in independent magazines so when I am exhibited close by to them they often take pictures for me to be able to see. I wish I could visit more but sometimes I literally am given 2 days to prepare. I can’t afford to go to London ten times a year at £60 a time.

What is the best exhibition your work has been displayed in, if you’re able to select one?

Probably the CIWEM Young Environmental Photographer of the year 2013. It helped my career so much. They are such lovely people. I almost missed the deadline getting my final high res images to them. How terrifying!

If you had to choose a single picture from your 60,000 strong portfolio as your favourite, do you reckon you could? 

It would be very subjective based on my current mood. I would like to think I could but a lot are just irreplaceable to me. They are worth their weight in gold in that I can’t recreate a lot of the moments.

You have also won a large amount of competitions with your work. Could you give an overview of some of your best achievements? Do you think they have helped catapult your career?

CIWEM Young Environmental Photographer Of The Year 2013,National Geographic’s UK kids photography competition 2010, Coast Magazine Best Young Photographer Prize 2012, Young Photographer, The Economic And Social Research Council: Portraits Of Britain 2012.

I think with my photography, whilst I am currently taking the best photos of my career and I’m still winning awards, I’m taking a bit of break from selling my work. I start to feel bitter when people question my integrity based on my age. I’m also writing well and finding more people to buy my articles currently. I want my career to flow in which ever creative direction leaves me the most successful and least mental.

How do you take the self portrait shots? Is it common for photographers to be lens side of the camera?

Often literally holding the camera in front of me. I doubt my tripod and I like being in full control of the angle to the inch. I think more and more with people like Cindy Sherman becoming so famous that young photographers are very inspired to be different people whilst being themselves. I used to do that a lot. Now I pretty much take selfies to record whatever bad things have happened to me.

Instagram. Are you a fan of it, or do you think devalues the art form?
Nothing devalues photography. Its either a good picture or boring depending on who looks at it and interprets it. I would like to use instagram but I don’t have an smartphone.

Did you find there were any barriers to entry into the profession? How did you afford all your equipment to start with? 

Even though I’ve won the biggest award of my career and appeared in Vogue and Harper’s this year, My equipment costs have stayed consistent at £150. If I pushed it I could probably pick up the camera I use all the time for about £90 in some places. I would really like to play with a nice pricey Hasselblad for image quality reasons but until I’m older or I win a grant its just a dream. There are no barriers to winning most awards and being exhibited in most places. Marketing art is the biggest issue of difficulty so I concentrate on beating everyone in competitions and gaining more accolades.

How did you learn to use photo manipulation software? 

Tutorials mainly. I’m fairly crude on it because if I am using it I want it to be very obvious in an art style and not a forged photo. There are almost no competitions that allow the removal of elements or change in composition. Its not right for the naturally occurring masterpieces in this world.

Has manipulation software detracted from the raw talent of photography, or do you feel it has aided it? 

I feel there are a lot of manufactured horrors because of it so I think it needs to be used with a pinch of salt helpful hints. You can’t really edit a photo too little if the composition is basically good and interesting.

How do you get work? Are you contacted for commissioned work, or do you apply to callouts? 

Mainly commissioned work. I only spend time on callouts when I have a working relationship with the client and a track record of them paying me previously. I am best at horror commissions. I really gravitate to that work easily but I can transfer my skills to any genre when given an outline.

What is your favourite part of photography? Do you still see it as an enjoyable hobby or is it now a job? 

I’m trying to keep it being enjoyable by spending less time obsessing over it. Since I stopped chasing so many low paying jobs I’ve had more time to enter competitions with the UN and other international projects. I can’t be expected to put out time for a job to get paid peanuts. Since I made more time for myself the ideas have been flowing fresh. I’m really trying to get behind some equality and art orientated exhibitions. That is important to me. I always want my photographs to speak volumes in some way.

Do you have any advice for others inspired by your work, and want to get into the industry? 

I feel with what I’ve experienced already I could write a book, but basically make sure to protect your copyright at all costs and make sure to aim to be original and not the latest trend.

Where next for you? What are your aims for the next 5 and 10 years? 

I would like to get an agent in the next 10 years. It would be nice to maybe become an agent myself, or be able to amass so many contacts that I could be paid for PR work. I feel like I will probably spend less time on lens based work and more time writing and probably aim to express my emotions as social commentary and my impressions on the creative world as it stands for young people. I hope to be so busy in the next ten years that I follow in the footsteps of creative people that I greatly admire like Damon Albarn and Richard Ayoade.

Finally, do you want to give our readers links to your website, facebook, twitter and any other ways they can view your incredible work?

Thanks so much for your time, and all the best for the future!

Thank you so much.

About the author

Tom Inniss

Tom is a journalist and feature writer with interests in politics, technology and culture. He currently works as the editor of Voice - an online magazine for young people interested in art and culture.

Tom Inniss Journalist and podcaster

Tom Inniss

Tom is a journalist and feature writer with interests in politics, technology and culture. He currently works as the editor of Voice - an online magazine for young people interested in art and culture.

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