Elisha Frey | Buzz Blog
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Elisha Frey


As any photographer can attest, starting up your own business can be a daunting process. Many who make the attept either end up quiting after the first year or only succeed on a minimum level without pushing any further. But the shutterbug we're talking with today didn't just make it a career decision, they chose it as a life-altering hobby that helped in the most dire of times.

--- Over the past year Elisha Frey has been building a reputation as one of the more artistic photographers in the city. The former Vet Tech turned pictorial shooter resolved to make her passionate hobby into a livelihood after a bout with Leukemia, and now showcases some of the most creative snapshots in the art community while maintaining herself as a freelancing pro. I got a chance to chat with Elisha about her life, career and her personal battles, as well as her thoughts on local art and a few other topics. All with samples of her work below.

Elisha Frey



Gavin: Hey Elisha! First off, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Elisha: Just your average twenty-something girl… with a passion for photography, life, and art in general.

Gavin: What first got you interested in photography?

Elisha: Ever since I can remember, my father has been interested in photography, so I was exposed to it at an early age. Those first few pictures I took myself, capturing the mundane with a simple lens, showing the world a new angle, new dimensions they never knew existed, showing them something, anything but the ordinary – I loved it! In high school, I wasn’t terribly interested in academics or anything requiring my left brain. In fact, I rarely went for a couple of years. Eventually, I pulled it together and graduated but Photography was the only class that held my interest and the only one I attended on a regular basis. I found the ability to capture the world as I saw it enthralling. I could capture my own perspective and forge it into an image.

Gavin: When you were first exploring it, did you seek out any education in high school or was it more self-taught?

Elisha: Besides a Photography class in high school, I am really self-taught. I had some instruction from my father who also enjoyed photography. He bought me my first camera - an SLR Chinon CM-5 and taught me about shutter speed, F-stop and film. It is vastly different from my current digital SLR camera. The Chinon has no bells or whistles and is fully manual. As I took photos then developed them, I learned what worked – and much of it did not. In retrospect, though, manual cameras are really a great way to get started in photography.

Gavin: You moved a lot between here and California as a kid. What made you want to stay in Utah?

Elisha: I have a lot of family and friends in Utah but I stayed mainly to have stability in my life and Salt Lake City is such a beautiful place! Truth be known, though, I met a very special man along the way who’s in the U.S. Air Force and we’ve been together nearly four years.

Gavin: Considering your passion for it, what made you choose to go into Veterinary Studies as opposed to Photography in college?

Elisha: Working with animals and being a Vet Tech was something I knew how to go after and do well. At that time, I needed to pay my rent so I felt that if I chose to work in photography that I would have been pigeon-holed and then end up taking pictures in a structured or corporate environment. I never wanted to end up dreading or hating the art of photography because I had to make rent. What can I say? I have always been a bit rebellious and I wanted to do photography my way, not someone else’s. Not to mention that I dread repetition. I really thrive on the new and unique. When I envision something, I want to take it to the next level. I will see Infrared photos taken in a certain way; I look at those pictures and ask myself, “How can I do that differently?” My first Infrared pictures were taken in an industrialized, swampy part of Salt Lake City rather than a rolling hill with a beautiful tree as the subject. Don't get me wrong, those photos can be stunning but I want to push the envelope.

Gavin: I read in 2008 you were diagnosed with Leukemia. What affect did that have on you learning about it and going in for treatment?

Elisha: I didn't react to the diagnosis of cancer like many people might. -I didn't “break down.” I certainly shed some tears, but was determined to face it, deal with it, live through it, and come out on top. I am still fighting the fight. I've been through the worst - the intense rounds of chemotherapy that nearly killed me to save me. Now I'm in the maintenance phase – two years of a low-dose chemo-cocktail that I get to take at home. And I'm in the final year of maintenance chemo now. While I was hospitalized, I found a lot of general information about leukemia, but little about the particular type I was diagnosed with (APML). I was able to work with a hospital employee to develop a pamphlet for future patients with the same type I had. It includes additional information to help them understand what is going on with their blood, and what to expect during treatment.

Gavin: During the recovery period you started looking into photography again. What re-sparked the interest and what did you do during that time?

Elisha: At first, it was something familiar to keep me occupied in the hospital. But after returning home, my energy levels and immune system were, and still are, in flux which pretty much rules out holding a steady job, let alone one that would require me to be around potentially sick people. With nothing but time on my hands, I could go out and shoot whatever I wanted, for as long as I could manage. For good reason, immunodeficiency makes a person into a bit of a germophobe, so I had to figure something out for all the times I'm stuck at home. I built a micro studio with a cardboard box, tissue paper, and a reptile heat lamp. It works great! I now have a collection of tons of random tiny objects, from flowers to bugs. And then, I hit the jackpot! -A huge box of owl statues that I found on KSL's website. Needless to say, my boyfriend wasn't terribly pleased with the forty-plus owl statues, many of which found their way out of the box and are perching randomly about the house.

Gavin: At what point did you officially decide to turn your passion into a business?

Elisha: Not until about a year after my diagnosis. It may sound cliché’, but I've now looked death in the face and have literally been heartbeats away from its grasp. If I don't cherish what I have and do what truly makes me happy, then I’m not really living. And I'm certainly not ready to die just yet, so it seemed like it was photography or nothing.

Gavin: For personal choice, do you prefer traditional film or digital, and why?

Elisha: Well I have to say that my first love is film. There is something magical about the process. I especially love working in the dark room. Seeing your image develop on a blank sheet, the smells of the developers and chemicals and working with a precise amount of light to get an image that is perfect... it’s really something extraordinary. I plan to have my own dark room someday. Until then, digital photography can also be amazing. Being able to control almost everything so that the picture is perfect, all in an instant, is really a gift. Plus, I can take a thousand photos and it doesn't cost me a dime.

Gavin: While we’re on the topic, what kind of equipment do you shoot with?

Elisha: I have two cameras. My first is an I Canon Rebel XSI. The other is also an XSI but its internal components have been modified to take infrared photos. The upside to having a camera that is dedicated to infrared is that I don't need to trunk along extra filters and a tripod everywhere I go. The downside is I can only shoot infrared with it. And, I would have to take two big cameras out shooting if I want both types of pictures.

Gavin: Was it difficult for you to get started and find clients or did things manage to work out?

Elisha: It's been a bit of both. I was lucky enough to be invited to The Woman's Craft Fair & Health Expo in Park City last year so that helped get me moving in the right direction. I have since created my own website and I have also worked very hard trying to get my work up in coffee shops. These days, I’m exploring the exciting realm of social media.

Gavin: Considering the work you do, do you prefer the artistic side or profile and real life shots?

Elisha: I'm not sure if I could put my art or style into any of those categories. I am always looking to show objects or people in a new and different light. I rarely move or adjust objects when I shoot. I try to take photos of things as they are. Whether that is an old cigarette box on the street and I have to crouch or lay on the ground to get the shot, or a homeless man begging for change at the gates of the LDS temple, I shoot things as they are. I can see the beauty in the way things are and I want to share that with others. I do have plans for a studio where I can work more with the artistic side of photography. I plan to create art with the female form and not in a way you might be thinking. Not models who are portrayed to be perfect, I want to shoot real women. Women with real life stories whose skin, their own canvas, tells those stories. I want to produce photos where you don't edit out the stretch marks and scars; they're an important and symbolic part of a woman and it's beautiful. I received a number of scars from my cancer treatments. They are my badges of honor, my battle wounds now healed and stronger than ever before. I earned them and I am so proud of them. ...So perhaps you could say I make real life photography artistic.

Gavin: What's the reaction been like from people when they see your pictures?

Elisha: More positive than negative so far, though everyone's tastes are different. One person’s favorite is another person’s least favorite. I find that most people are drawn to my photos of trains, old farm equipment, animals and infrared shots. My Huntsman photos and self portraits are less poplular. Although I don't blame anyone for not liking the Huntsman photos. That was a really stressful, scary time in my life and I captured that feel in the photos. Hopefully I have something for everyone.

Gavin: What are your future plans or goals as far as being a professional photographer?

Elisha: One of my many goals is to travel the world with my camera and take pictures of absolutely everything. I think photojournalism would be an interesting and challenging career. I have a hundred ideas for photography books and twice that many for in-studio shots. I don't have any set goals for one type of photography, but I aspire to accomplish many things using my camera. I’ve learned that in taking my photography and turning it into a business, it’s not just about shooting pictures. I now have to be focused on marketing my work as well. This hasn’t come so naturally. But when you’re passionate about what you do, it’s a little less daunting. I’ll be making more efforts to promote my work in the future.

Gavin: Going state-wide, what are your thoughts on the local art scene, both good and bad?

Elisha: I love the Utah art scene! We have so many festivals celebrating and nurturing locals. It’s so wonderful to see coffee shops and local establishments showcasing photographers and artists. I think that for how small a population we have, we produce and show so much incredible art.

Gavin: Is there anything you feel could be done to make it bigger or better?

Elisha: I would like to see more “Meet The Artist” opportunities that would take place on a regular basis. There’s a reason they call us “starving artists”. So having free or low-cost events to showcase their art provides so much opportunity. Not only for artists but for the public also.

Gavin: Are there any local photographers who you view are at the top of their game?

Elisha: While I’m not new to the world of photography, I would still consider myself “the new kid on the block” with regard to the local scene. But I can say that I really love Stephanie Swift’s work at Pretty Little Pixel!!

Gavin: What's your take on Gallery Stroll and what its done for the art community?

Elisha: I really love the Gallery Stroll and would love to show my work there soon. It is so much fun hopping from one gallery to another, getting inspired at every turn. My only suggestion for the Gallery Stroll members is to make a PDF map available with all the business clearly marked. When there are so many galleries and business involved it is difficult to figure out the best route to take and in which order to see them all. The Stroll is really a lot of fun, very interactive and a nice way to experience Salt Lake City. It showcases the artists and their work and gives the public an opportunity to meet those artists as well. Now if we could combine a wine tasting event with the Gallery stroll it would be perfect!

Gavin: What can we expect from you over the rest of the year?

Elisha: I’m certain the rest of the year will produce some great photos. Look for more photos on my website and check back often for updates. There may even be a trip across the pond and I’m incredibly excited to take pictures in another country. Also, there are some ideas for a coffee table book being tossed around, so watch out for one of those in the next year or two.

Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?

Elisha: Of course I would! A “plug”, if you will, for my boyfriend, Nick. His tireless support, strength, and love have been the inspiration that helped bring me through the worst of my Leukemia treatment and now to pursuing my dream. Nick, you are the absolute best! Thank you for all that you do and all that you are. Diva’s Cupcakes & Coffee. I had my first “Meet the Artist” art show there. And, they serve the best brunch and coffee! I was invited back to showcase my work in November, 2010 so be sure to stop by and check it out. Two Creek Coffee House in the Avenues - They gave me my first opportunity to showcase my work. Park City Animal Clinic – The only place to take your pet! The staff and clients have provided me tremendous support. To see my work, purchase a photo, contact me or learn more about me, visit my website, Twitter, Facebook or Blogspot.