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
In Autumn 2018, The Cable commissioned Esther to take pictures of humans feeding their newborns at this crucial, tender time. A work in progress, she is currently looking for subjects to continue the work over 2019.
During 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, I witnessed babies fed in intuitive and inventive ways, in hugely different circumstances. Some latched to nipple, others couldn’t and some did not stop breast feeding for many years. I met a woman for whom breastfeeding was painful and stressful, so she brought up her children on formula and the whole family thrives. I met mothers who combination-fed out of choice, and mothers who couldn’t produce enough milk to sustain their baby alone and so combined breast with formula or milk from a breast-milk bank. I came across radical kith and kin networks, out of photo frame but indispensable—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 belonging to 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’.
Mothers, fathers and loved ones look deep into the eyes of a baby as it drinks in nourishment – milk, love, 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.
My Mind to Me a Kingdom Is is part invention and part document. It is an exploration of the artist’s process, an unravelling of the self-imposed and instinctual constrictions within which art can be created, and in return the art’s healing nature for its inventor. The piece, employing 16mm moving image film and 35mm, paints a portrait of fabricated rules and regulations as a form of artistic pressure and emotional fortress. A man secluded in the Suffolk countryside, conjures his own world, a courageous Prospero conjuring boundaries so that art can flourish while the earth’s emotional weather doesn’t blow a storm and overwhelm us all.
Campbell’s visual sense is already so strong you long to see where she’s heading next, The Times
Light Years is a feature-length film written and directed by Esther. It premiered at the Venice Film Festival. A giddy trip through England’s edgelands Light Years conjures gorgeously subtle pieces of visual storytelling to offer a startling story of loss, hope and the deepest of human connections. 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. With recordings from Chris Watson and music by Eric Chenaux, the film was taken to premiere at the Venice Film Festival.
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 edgelands (active agents in the telling rather than simple background),Light Years is at once a quietly insistent rites-of-passage piece, a subtle meditation of the implications and ripple effects of mental distress and a lyrical celebration of childhood resilience, imagination and common cause in the face of parental absence, whether locational or emotional.
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
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.
Winner: Best Short Film BAFTA
Winner: Best of British Award, Encounters Film Festival
Winner: Best Film of the Festival, London Short Film Festival
Winner: Paris x11 Award, Festival International de Films de Femmes
Winner: Best Short Film, Woodgreen Film Festival
Winner: Best Short Film, A Corto di Donne
Winner: Best Short Film, East End Film Festival
Winner: Mix Video Prize, Nice Short Film Festival
Winner: Best Short Film, Buxton Film Festval
Nominated: Golden Horseman for Best Short Film, Dresden Film Festival
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 and then kicked about and often forgotten. She is accepting students for Spring & Summer 2019. Get in touch via email.