Ellie Leonardsmith is a portrait photographer based in Saint Paul, Minnesota. You can view her work at www.ellieleonardsmith.com.
Ellie strives to capture our authentic lives, including the best of our love, laughter, and learning. She is fueled by the little moments of love, the grand gestures of silliness, and the infinitely deep moments of connection in our everyday.
In this project she dives into the flip side our our happiness and perfection, but recognizes as well that we are complex, whole people, and all our moments are valid and worth witnessing.
(from the print version of What We Hide)
by Marisha Chamberlain
In What We Hide, the photographer, Ellie Leonardsmith, has created a project uniquely suited to her great gifts as a visionary and an artist. The project expresses who she is—someone passionately interested in others, unbound by preconceptions, closely observant, open to all that may come, and able to bring forth remarkable images as she goes forward with her investigation of what it means to be human and alive.
She may be the least manipulative photographer I’ve ever encountered. She has an rare ability to be with her subjects while taking their pictures. When photographing me, as she frequently has, it’s felt to me as though she and I were side-by-side facing outward together, together finding what there is to discover or uncover in an image. I suspect that quality of interaction went on and continues to go on behind every photograph in this book. I say that the interaction continues because these photographs seem alive in an ongoing way. I look at a lovely face where damage is, for once, allowed to show, or at the tension in a set of shoulders that seems to express hopelessness, for once, admitted, and I feel, with the photographer and the subject, profound relief.
Because the subject matter is so compelling, it might be easy to miss the sheer beauty of these images. The reader will know, as Leonardsmith has revealed, that she accomplished this project during a time when she was also handling her own harrowing frailty and loss. Yet, her theory that great beauty and fresh truth would be found by asking her subjects to show what they’ve usually hidden is proven true, page after page. In the unexpected frankness in her compositions, awkwardness, uncertainty or a sense of incompleteness are revealed as harmony. She’s achieved in image what the poet, John Keats has proposed in words, that “Beauty is truth, and truth beauty, all /Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”