Meet Photographer Cody Ellingham
Cody Ellingham (@cbje_tokyo) is a Tokyo-based art director and photographer. Read our interview with Cody to learn about his newest project, #DERIVE.
Interviewer Alexi Ueltzen (@alexi) is Ello’s Social Media & Email Manager. If she’s not at the office, she’s probably swimming, getting muddy with her dogs, or baking cookies. The best cookies.
Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get into photography?
I am an art director and photographer. I am originally from a small town in New Zealand. I grew up shooting slide film of the mountains and night skies since I can remember. When I came to Japan I began shooting the city digitally.
What motivated you to move to Japan?
I was given the opportunity to work with a creative agency in Tokyo, a place that I had always admired. Once I got here there was no turning back!
What is the #DERIVE project and what spurred its creation?
DERIVE is my wanderings around the neon nights of Tokyo. I would finish work in the evening and just start walking for hours, soaking up the atmosphere and layers of history of the city. I began to take photographs of what I saw.
Your nighttime photography has a very otherworldly, serene quality. Has this always been your aesthetic?
I am constantly developing my style. I am inspired by a wide range of media, the cinematography of Terayama Shuji, stories of Old Tokyo, and the colorcast of an expired roll of Fujifilm Velvia. So much goes into my style and I am always trying to push myself further.
How do you discover and choose your subject matter?
I look for moments forgotten, I ask myself 'what could have been?'. A brutal 1960's housing complex next to a modern skyscraper, an old shrine illuminated by a thousand neon lights, that is what I am looking for.
A lot of your shots are reminiscent of 3D digital art, both in their color palette and the textures they feature. Do you do a lot of post-production work to create that type of image?
I believe that the darkroom (or Lightroom) is where the discovery process begins with an image. No image is perfect out of the camera, it always needs to be interpreted. I spend a long time working on an image digitally to get the certain aesthetic that I want.
Is there another big project on your horizon?
I have just launched a creative studio, E&L TOKYO, focusing on branding and creative direction. With my business partner, we are looking to bring together some of the amazing work coming out of Tokyo and work on projects that take things to a new level.
Are there any other mediums or subject matter you’d like to explore with your photography?
I am a story-teller by heart. I have been increasingly working on cinematography and video projects. I feel moving images offer new powerful ways to tell my stories and I would like to do more of that.
What’s something about you that would surprise our readers?
I am deeply inspired by literature, Ayn Rand, Mishima Yukio, Kawabata Yasunari, and Vergil. Photography is ephemeral, gone in a moment like a cloud, literature is like the mountains – forever. I try to bring some of the permanence of words into my image making.