Water Salad on Monday is an on-site, immersive experience of cinematic photographs that tenderly pick their way through the special natures of Elm Tree, a working farm staffed by adults with learning disabilities. The show pastes, staples and hangs vast monochrome portraits and fleeting moments onto walls, hay bales and sheds around the farm.
Esther was in situ to witness animal birth and death, mud and blood, community and care while clicking her battered, analogue cameras through the seasons. Portraying the life-affirming hotbed of care, compassion and graft of the farm, the exhibition is a treasure trail of sensory pleasure holding still life for a single moment, surrounded by its living, breathing muses in resplendent Autumn light.
Sometimes you only realise what’s been lacking when it appears. Most photographic shows display work in sterile surroundings cut off from context. Water Salad on Monday is different. The pictures – a poignant mix of unguarded portraits, captured moments, still lives – are chanced upon in unexpected places around the farm on which they were taken. In an orchard, a pig sty, pinned to a straw bale, hidden in a barn, peeped at through a high window and the effect is resonant, lingering, multi-layered. Rich, nuanced, context floods in through the ears and nose as well as the eyes. There’s such a closeness to the photos. Tender and acutely observed, building to a deeply-felt love letter to the land. Mike White, Boneshaker.
There is love in these photos. The quality is fantastic– Darren Shepherd, photographer
I can’t recommend this enough. A wonderful immersive exhibition. Esther has taken hugely emotive shots of the people who work on the farm… It’s such a fabulous idea and if I’m honest, it blew me away. – Lifestyle District
I genuinely don’t know how Esther does what she does – the photos are remarkable, relevant, heart-felt and important– Adam Laity, cinematographer
Amazingly beautiful, grounded, unpretentious – Dave Howell, Fatcat Records
An utter delight, beautifully produced and a wonderfully empathetic portrayal – Black and White photography magazine
Water Salad on Monday was kindly supported by The Arts Council of Great Britain.
The accompanying limited edition book is available on this site and in shops.
In 2018, The Bristol Art Library commissioned a book. Esther produced Whalebone, a series of images touching on the story of the Tahlequah, a whale who grieved last year for her dead calf over 28 days in the Atlantic. Esther came across a whale closer to home, shed up on a Cornish beach. She was one of many that had been starving over the winter around England’s shores.
Exploring teenage identity in the UK. Work in progress
I travel on a boat, down a vast broad river. A structure sits on the centre of this vessel; a tower of humans. I’m on the deck looking out. A hand slips into mine. I look down. There stands a little girl. I guess she’s my daughter. We see the banks. Fallen trees. Concrete blocks cutting into wasted and precarious soil. Skeletons of business parks suffocate what was once forests and meadows. At each turn of the river I hope to see some form of life, but instead more rubble and grey skies twist into view. It is a dead land. Then I hear a crash. We look back. A landslide far behind. A vast clod of earth rolls down, forming a giant pellet before it hits the water. Tornado-like it hurtles at speed in our direction. A call to the others but in the tower they say ‘we are doing OK, tucked up here, cruising down the River of Life‘. But the earth has its own idea. It hits us with conscious force. Everything shakes. My daughter turns to me – what now?
Then I woke up.
Petrichor is a new feature in development with support from the British Film Institute written by Esther. The project has been selected by Torino Film Lab and it is being produced by Rosie Crerar, Samm Haillay & Ciara Barry. It tells of the unfolding narrative of our species as imagined through a love triangle set six hundred years in the future – a battle of ideologies and a war of the heart experienced by strident Ruth and the two compelling men she falls for.
Petrichor; the smell of the earth after the rain.
Over time musicians have come to Esther for moving pictures & record sleeves – Kath Bloom, Nancy Elizabeth, Bass Clef, James Blackshaw, Angel Tech, Joe Volk, Some Truths. Good people.
In 2016, The Old Shoe Factory launched its inaugural exhibition – a selection of film photos and sound recordings by E M Campbell. An atmospheric, myopic and inquisitive show, Out Of Darkness presented documentary pictures and audiovisual projections set amongst Ralph Cumbers‘ mixed soundscapes. She took us to faces and places delighting in domesticity and the metaphysical.
Campbell’s eye for character, her acute sense of place and striking images produce a sense of wonder beaming out from everything that otherwise appears ordinary around us. All real, and all smoke and mirrors
Select prints available here.
Autumn 2018, The Cable commissioned Esther to take pictures of humans feeding newborns .
During the first moments of nursing, parents experience bliss and trauma and everything in between. It is a sensitive chapter in our lives. Be it bottle, breast or both, taking these pictures I witnessed babies fed in hugely different circumstances. Some latched, some couldn’t and others would not stop breast feeding for years.
I met a woman for whom breastfeeding was painful, so she brought up her children on formula and the whole family thrives. I met mothers who couldn’t produce enough milk to sustain their baby alone (often due to past trauma) and so combined breast with formula. I came across radical kith and kin networks, mums who sourced what their babes needed from a breast-milk bank – women gifting their milk and time to support one another.
But this nurturing phase can also be isolating. Women often felt different degrees of shame – either uncomfortable bottle feeding in baby groups or breastfeeding in public, or feeding for what seemed too short or too long! One mother’s DIY inventiveness was realised in a contraption that delivered her milk along with with a bounty of milk gifted from another mother, through a tube taped to her nipple. Fearless, loving, she told me that she wished she had a T-Shirt that said, ‘I’m doing my fucking best’.
However the journey goes, I saw mothers, fathers and loved ones look deep into the eyes of their new love drinking in nourishment and love and a sense of belonging. Each feeder and every babe has their own interrelated story. The start of a story that goes on for years, one that reciprocal, feeding the ones we love.
Campbell’s visual sense is already so strong you long to see where she’s heading next, The Times
Premiering at the Venice Film Festival, it is a gorgeous, giddy trip through England’s
The film features the acting debut of acclaimed singer/songwriter Beth Orton, alongside acting veteran Muhammet Uzuner (ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA) and a cast of young newcomers from the West Country. With recordings from Chris Watson and music by Eric Chenaux, the film continued to play at festivals around the world.
Like my Neighbour Totoro adapted to live action by Terence Malick, Sight & Sound
I was spellbound by such fragile, yet tenacious performances, Raising Films
Eloquent moments of aching sadness, subtle suggestion and, for the viewer, profound realisation, One Room With a View
Joining a select but honourable lineage of British works that display an acute sense of the potencies of place, weather and the
With excellent use of painting, still photographs and a genuinely evocative sound-scape, it explores the handing on of experience and the fundamental unknowability at the heart of families and between generations, what might be thought of as the intimate otherness of people (sensitively caught in the ventriloquising witness of a silent night window familial encounter).
Both a heightened realist study of regional lives and (be)longing and a dream of childhood epiphanies among the extraordinary-ordinary days of the suburban /rural borderlands, ‘LightYears’ shines with an art- ist’s pleasure in associative narrative and place-making. A true-to-life tale of growing up, a fable of being lost and found, it’s a journey into the woods – and out again – that deserves to be widely seen, and striking evidence of a welcome new ensemble of talent, full of conviction in the possibilities of their art. The Whitechapel Gallery
Esther has directed television drama including shows for Channel 4 and the BBC. For SKINS she directed Freddie and JJ episodes and for Wallander a one off episode in Riga with Kenneth Branagh.
Caught in an in-between world of flyovers, grass verges and dead-ends, where the motorway hum serves as a constant reminder of the speed of other lives, Marvin is not going anywhere. Into this forgotten corner of English countryside and motorway services arrives an extraordinary adolescent, changing his world forever.
September is a BAFTA winning film written and directed by Esther working with friends in the West Country. It was released by Invada records with an accompanying album’s worth of music with the DVD. Festival successes included Best British Film at Encounters and the UK Film Council Award for Best Film at the London Short Film Festival, and a DVD release from SPECIALTEN arts magazine.
In 2018 Esther set up Kitchen Table Photo Club. Children and adults come to her home to work around the kitchen table, discovering the mysteries and joys of analogue black and white photography. Together they explore The Elemental, Juxtaposing odd things, The Decisive Moment and how to Direct a Performance, mimicking Past Pictures and much more. The basics of how to expose, focus and frame are covered, kicked about and often forgotten. ‘Everything was awesome !’ George says.
EMC is DB checked and has 20 years of working with young people and the arts