An Interview of Fine-art Photographer Vivian Ewing

An area of sunburned skin or a cloud of exhalation in cold air can show the experience of living as a body on the earth. Beauty lures the viewer in, as it does in nature, but the uncertainty and mystery and the fleeting moments of clarity in human life is the message of the image.

I chanced upon the photography of Vivian Ewing (b.1992) a Portland, ME, USA based fine-art photographer and the quote given above on her ‘About’ page caught my attention. I like things with a lot of abstractions and scope of inexactness. I liked the non-linear narrative elements of her photography and the way it’s sequenced with a helpful text. I decided to feature some of her works, and Vivian answered a few simple questions that give us an insight into her work:

vivianewing01Please tell us about yourself and your relationship with photography:

I have blood pressure that’s low enough to cause concern at the doctor’s office, and with this condition comes fainting spells. My heart’s sensitive reign over my vascular system forces me to find soft places to fall if need be. My delicate internal constitution is not unrelated to my sensitive personality or to my aesthetic sensitivity. Creating images is a way to handle experience, to reach out and touch something and make it real, the way someone might place a hand on a wall when they’re feeling dizzy.

vivianewing04I grew up on an island and have the education that comes from life out to sea. Many of my images from the last few years have dealt with the feeling of being surrounded by water, what happens on an island’s small towns or when a person becomes an island unto themselves. The water is an apt metaphor for the darkness, fluidity and mystery of life and the small town is the microcosm where this drama is played out.

vivianewing07There’s a very limited quantity of your work on your website. Are you a very conscious shooter? What is your decisive moment?

I am particular in my image-making and a careful editor of what I choose to display. The limited quantity on my site is also due to my limited lifespan as a photographer. Since finishing an undergraduate degree in photography this spring, I have shifted towards writing, some of which I plan to share soon.

My decisive moment is based on trust. When I get a chill from looking at what I’m photographing, I trust the viewer will too, as long as I do it justice. If I don’t have this feeling, I know they won’t either.

vivianewing08Literature and poetry seem to have a major influence on your work. Do you think paraphrasing a work of photography helps your viewers get to the message or intention of the photographer?

I don’t think paraphrasing a photograph helps a viewer understand an image, but I do think photography and text have a lot to give to each other. More than a dedication to a specific medium, I value storytelling above all else. I hope to be open enough to recognize whether a story is best told in images or in words. In my photography-and-text book about a house fire, I wrote a story based on a third-hand account of the event and then photographed the neighborhood where the fire took place. Then I let what I had done in both writing and photographs inform me how to weave the two mediums together. I’m inspired by how writer W.G. Sebald creates novels where images are given the same treatment on the page as text.

BOOK SPREADewing01 BOOK SPREADewing02 BOOK SPREADewing03 BOOK SPREADewing04Tell us about your various/current project(s) and your self-published photobook(s):

I work for a small publishing company in exchange for access to their equipment. I learn how to make books and apply what I learn to my own work; I’m currently in the planning stages of a larger edition of my house fire book, the pages of which are visible on my site.

I’ve just finished my first bit of writing that I’m happy with since this book and it will appear in a magazine called ‘Wilt’ that will be available online by the start of the new year at

vivianewing10Please share your favorite stuff: photographers, quotes, films, books, music etc.:

Reading, unfortunately for the sake of being well-rounded, is taking up almost all of my time. I read Nabokov for his seduction through visual details and in other famous ways. Huxley’s Island is one of my favorite novels besides Lolita; Island is about an island in a literal sense as well as what one can represent and Lolita is about a man who is island in the sea of America. My three-person book club ‘Dark Hearts’ is reading Henry Miller.

vivianewing11A photographer I’m excited about is Bella Provan who has recently been making some richly metaphoric and silky images. Her work can be seen at

A message to the reader or an aspiring photographers would be greatly appreciated:

Worship your idols. Whatever love you give them is really for yourself: from Island, by Huxley, “All gods are homemade” and from Absolutely Fabulous, “My god is me.”

vivianewing12 vivianewing13 vivianewing14 vivianewing15 vivianewing16All photos Vivian Ewing : Website | Instagram

About Nishant Mishra

Nishant studied art history and literature at the university during 1990s. He works as a translator in New Delhi, India and likes to read about arts, photography, films, life-lessons and Zen.

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