Twenties Unscripted Takeover is a special week-long feature series highlighting twenty-somethings who are “taking over the world” in music, art, film, social activism and business. The week kicks off with artist, writer and photographer Stacy-Ann Ellis. I met Stacy last year at a brunch and her talent and humility never cease to amaze me. Learn more about her in this Q&A.
In my mind, I think of you as the triple threat—writer, photographer, artist. How do you balance all of your talent? Is there one discipline that tugs at your heartstrings more than the others?
Why thank you! I’ve spent so much time to figure that out that I totally toss that ideology out the window now. I love all three equally. All were in my blood from youth. I used to write “books” before I hit the age of 10, my parents gush about how they used to watch me draw in amazement (for my age, what I was drawing was impressive to them). And my dad is a photographer, so me in that realm is a natural extension of day-to-day life.
Now, I’m hoping to make my primary bread and butter with writing, then photography, then art. But as far as love of the craft and expressing the emotions and thoughts bottled up in my noggin, all are on the same plateau.
You recently completed a photo project entitled “30 Days of Self”, a much more artistic, provocative and thoughtful take on a “selfie.” As a photographer, what are your thoughts on Instagram and how easy it is to take photos in today’s world?
Instagram is such a wildcard. It can be so basic at times, but when you look among all the selfies, #TBTs and not-that-lost “Lost Files,” you will stumble across some amazing work. When I first got it, I really wanted to focus less on posting things from my world and more of “twatching” to get art and photo inspiration from people. After a while, I realized people actually do give a damn about what’s happening on my side of the WiFi connection. Instagram provides a platform to share yourself artistically. Yes, it allows anyone to plug “photographer” in their bio, but if you’re only judging the shooter of your next project via his/her Instagram, you need to step back and try again with some deeper research.
You recently produced your first showcase, “Emergence.” What was that like for you and what moments about that night stood out?
Frightening, amazing, exhilarating, exhausting. Quite frankly a dream come true. You’ll always have hopes about how something you planned so meticulously will turn out. But when you see (almost) everything go smoothly and you get so much positive feedback, it’s confirmation that you were right about your gifts and the need to share them. What you see in yourself is indeed true. It’s weird for me because I don’t really like to be the center of attention. I prefer the fly-on-the-wall lifestyle, but I forced myself out of my comfort zone and into the spotlight with this show and it worked out. It wasn’t as scary as I thought. The moments that stood out the most were whenever someone asked me for the clipboard with order forms. It’s one thing to internally support someone’s goals, or on social media, but to actually support you financially? That means you genuinely believe in what’s being presented to you.
What’s the best advice you have received about being an artist? (Advice, quote, whatever comes to mind).
I’ll use art loosely, because drawing, writing, snapping photos, whatever, it’s all art. One thing I keep hearing in one way or another is if someone says what you’re doing is good, it’s okay to believe them. I don’t give myself enough credit all the time because of occasional doubts and have a hard time accepting compliments or praise. But believe in your product the way you want others to, and they will.
What advice would you give to aspiring artists?
Easy, drop the “aspiring” and just be =). Flourish, honey, and people will take notice accordingly.
How important is it for women, especially black women, to have creative outlets?
Just like how men have this lofty expectation to be tough guys and super macho, women have the responsibility of making sure things are orderly all around her. Everything is put together and makes this a pretty picture. When you indulge yourself in your creative element, it stops you from feeling stuck in a monotonous routine. You need to unwind, and a trip to the spa isn’t always going to help you unknot your soul. See something, draw something, DIY something, move something. Just do something to exercise your creative muscle.
What is your most favorite photo you’ve ever captured and what is the story behind it?That’s exceptionally hard to answer because I don’t think I’ve taken it yet. I’ll love a picture one day, be enamored with it for a while, then wonder why I took the picture a certain way as opposed to another. The self-critiques don’t stop. But I will cite a moving moment I had back in 2011.
One of my favorite photo sessions happened while I was in an intensive 2-week journalism program with the NY Times in New Orleans, and I had to accompany a writer to Bush, Louisiana to take pictures of what was left of people’s homes after a tornado. It was the most honest thing I’ve ever shot, and the family was more than happy to show me everything and let me put their story into photographs. Here’s one of the photos from that day for reference. (http://www.stacyannellis.com/book-ii#3)
What’s next for you?
I’m constantly shifting my points of interest between my three crafts. I’m resting my art side for a while to focus on my writing side for now, but I have a few photo project ideas floating around, both long term and short term. So we’ll see what happens with those =).
Stacy-Ann is a NY-born and based writer, photographer and artist with work featured in VIBE, VIBE Vixen, The Root, MadameNoire and others. She’s a constant dreamer, is obsessed with her home state, and adores all things black (as in black people), girly and artsy. She’s patiently awaiting the day when her home will double as a personal gallery. Watch her create over on stacyannellis.com and sellisthewriter.blogspot.com, and keep up with her on Twitter at @stassi_x.