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Photography (MA)

Elissa Jane Diver

Elissa Jane Diver was born in London, spent her childhood in Finland, and now lives in Brighton on the south coast of England. Elissa’s interest in photography lies in its singular relationship to the physical world, and the way in which the photograph holds a capricious mirror to reality. Her work searches for connections between the physical and metaphysical and is always anticipating an encounter with the unexpected. 


MA Photography Royal College of Art 2022

BA (Hons) Photography (First Class) University of Brighton 2012

BA (Hons) French and English Literature University of Southampton 1988

Upcoming Exhibition:

15th-19th August - After The Waiting Room - Copeland Gallery, London

Show Location: Battersea campus: Dyson & Woo Buildings, First floor

My recent practice has been a response to a rewilding site in West Sussex. Rewilding is defined as an attempt to restore eco-systems to the point where they are self-sufficient and often begins with an intervention such as the reintroduction of a missing species. When the Knepp rewilding project began over twenty years ago, Long Horn Cattle, Tamworth pigs, Roe, Red, and Fallow Deer were brought onto the land. These animals through their grazing activities now keep a check on the emerging scrub, preventing the dominance of closed canopy woodland, encouraging instead more diverse vegetation and new habitats.

A deer fence was built around the entire 3500 acre site. In order to create a place that could run wild, it first had to be contained. My practice also involves the creation of a framework or space in which to make work, with the knowledge that there will be both planned and unplanned outcomes. I am always waiting for something to happen that is beyond my control.

I began to think of the studio as a metaphor for the rewilding site. An enclosed space that could nurture and contain a wilding of the imagination. I made my own interventions to kick-start the process, by bringing found objects from the site into the studio.

Deer StalkingCyanotype on linen, toned with oak tannins

Living in a technologically advanced, 21st-century culture, I am sheltered in a home within a city; I make a phone call and meals appear at my door. I am removed from the natural environment and the survival of my body is not a daily preoccupation. My economic circumstances are the framework for my safety. 

Living in the wild, I must shelter myself from extremes of heat and cold; find water and food; I see my breath on the cold air, I am soaked to the skin, frozen stiff, the wind blows through me and the sun beats down on me. The elements persecute me and I risk expiration. I am close to a corpse. I need shelter, I need a plan and I need my own kind.

I separate myself from the wild to protect myself from death. I need borders, physical and psychological, and so begins in culture, a separation from wilderness, but also from the body, as the primary locus of our own wildness.
There are many hundreds of species including mammals, birds, fungi, invertebrates, bryophytes and lichens, associated with the oak tree, many of them are obligate, in other words, would not be able to survive without the oak. In an ancient oak of say 400 years old or more, the heartwood will begin to rot and the tree will begin to provide for species that a younger, even a two hundred year old oak tree, could not sustain.
Under OakCyanotype printed on linen, toned with nettles
LekSix cyanotypes on watercolour paper, toned with nettles
Wild is an expression of freedom, it animates the natural world, it is high winds and high spirits, unpredictable and shapeshifting; we rise to meet it with fear, and definitions of the wild describe our lack of control over it. Wild is the un-discovered land, the un-cultivated plant, the un-tamed animal. So the wild becomes other, but I resist this being at odds with the wild. My own wildness is in the body and the imagination, it is close by; within, not without.
Knepp PondCyanotype on linen, toned with nettles
Oak and IvyCyanotype on linen, toned with nettles
Rut (ii)Cyanotype on linen, toned with nettles
Summer OakCyanotype on linen, toned with nettles