ellie brown – capsule relationship

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Ellie Brown

Capsule Relationship

play this essay


The story started with a Craigslist advertisement. The story ends with a true collaboration on the project. This resulted in a narrative of a truncated relationship based on social norms that both Zach Webber (the creator of the concept) and myself (the photographer) don’t necessarily fit into in our own minds. We wanted to try living this life in a way that is not making fun of those who choose this path, but rather to try it on for size so to speak. There were many unexpected emotional layers that surfaced for both of us during the project, mainly resulting from unexpected real reactions in fictional situations.  Mostly we are proud of how convincing this project was for us as well as the people we encountered along the way.  We didn’t know what to expect going into the project and the outcome was the result of an organic collaboration. In the end, we formed not only a working relationship, but a real romantic relationship within the boundaries of a fictional relationship. This brings into question the power of social scripting and how in trying to look at it critically, we fell into it. Like all relationships, the fictional and real relationship came to a perhaps predictable ending filled with emotional drama. Zach Webber chose to move on from the project and pursue a relationship outside of the work we did. He is no longer affiliated with the project and so all that remains is the documentation and experience of the project. The project was emotionally intense and difficult at times, but a wonderful mirror into how each one of us functions within the script of a relationship. Please read more details here: http://sevendayrelationship.blogspot.com/

below is a copy of the actual advertisement as it appeared on Craigslist:

Seeking partner for conceptual seven-day-long relationship

Reply to: xxxxx@craigslist.org

Date: 2009-03-24, 4:03AM

Okay, here’s my idea: 
I want to participate in a conceptual capsule relationship, which would essentially be an attempt to artificially concentrate a long-term relationship of several years into a period of seven days. During the seven-day span of our relationship, we’d move from the stage of initial flirtation into marriage, child-rearing, and finally divorce. This would involve a lot of play-acting at times, since once we set the relationship in motion, our actions and expressed emotions would be heavily shaped by the constructs of a stereotypical relationship. The goal would be to stick to our imposed guidelines as much as possible, placing ourselves in various situations in order to watch how the scenes play out between the two of us. It’s sort of the relationship equivalent of a haiku: very structured and very short. 
I’d imagine we’d want to talk prior to officially starting our relationship in order to hash out the details, but here’s a basic, day-by-day outline of what I’ve got in mind:

  • Day 1: We arrange to have a ‘chance meeting’ on the street, where we strike up a conversation and exchange numbers.
  • Day 2: We have our first date, we go out to dinner, catch a movie, maybe hold hands afterwards.
  • Day 3: We’re head-over-heels in love! We go on a romantic walk, we cuddle, we share a malted at a diner and stare deeply into one another’s eyes. 
-At some point during the day, I propose to you in a public place. You accept. 
-That night, we separately hold bachelor/bachelorette parties with our own groups of friends.
  • Day 4: Our Wedding Day. That morning we get somebody to pretend to marry us in a private ceremony. Maybe we can tie tin cans to the backs of our bikes and ride away. 
-After our wedding, we embark on our honeymoon. Regional Rail to Atlantic City, right?
  • Day 5: We’re expecting. You put a balloon under your shirt and we go around to baby stores, checking out the merchandise. We sure are excited!
  • Day 6: Having secured a thrift-store stroller and a baby doll, we heavily swaddle our child in blankets and push the little cutie around the city. -Unfortunately, we start to bicker. As the day wears on, this bickering worsens.
  • Day 7: Dramatically, we split up. One of us gains full custody of our child, and the other is deeply resentful. 
-In the final act of our capsule relationship, we bump into one another, once more, in a public place. This time, it’s very awkward. 
At this point, our capsule relationship will have ended, and we will be broken up.

NOTE: A friend of mine had an idea for an alternate ending that would involve you and I aging and gradually growing disenchanted with one another, which would necessitate rearranging some of the above “days” around to allow for a “boring domestic day” in which we’d spend a few hours sitting around the house watching serialized television together and not having too much to say to one another over dinner (spaghetti?) when we ask each other how our days have been. So, you know, all of this is totally up for discussion! 
I think it’d be a lot of fun, and I really hope somebody wants to do this with me. Even if you’re not interested in actually participating yourself, I’d love to get your feedback. And yes, I am willing to send a photo your way if you’re legitimately interested and feel that a photo is something you’ll need to see. 
Please email me with any questions or comments.


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90 Responses to “ellie brown – capsule relationship”

  • big ups for philly….been down many of those streets, green hills and stations….

    have to say to zach and ellie that as a conceptual conceit, the idea (longer the better) has so much from which to germinate….there is by the way, a great photographer couple here in Toronto that works the boundaries of relationships…

    but will ask one simple question:

    if there is about love…where is the rage, where is the bitterness, where is the sex, where is the loss, where is the wonderment….

    it is, ultimately, quite hollow….

    and sorry to say, that emptyness just makes me feel nothing but loss, but an idea that seems more about young art school students that about the vagrieties of life…and loss…

    even the pain and doubt and wonderment that comes with childbirth, nothing here…

    sorry guys

  • What are you sorry for? All of that was there, mostly in the crossover between the real relationship and the capsule relationship. I suggest you check out the book for the real nitty-gritty where we delve deeply into all of the stuff you’ve mentioned in our writings about the experience. What you are seeing here is just a surface introduction to the project. It goes way deeper.

  • I have to say that I feel like I’ve just wasted some time. And time is so damn precious to me. But it’s a risk one takes when exploring new work. The risk on this occasion, unfortunately, was not worth it for me. I do not feel in any way enriched for having lingered over this essay. Rather I feel ever so slightly annoyed.

    Or maybe I just don’t get it.

    Back to real love and life for me. Time to supervise homework.

  • Dave and Anton; perhaps we should have included the text that goes with the work to give the images context?
    I see now, how they are just floating without the text to ground them. I can see why people may not be getting it. What do you think?
    Again, I encourage everyone to read the blog and/or the book liked above.

    One last thought. Are nasty comments really necessary? Really???

  • This seems a project that desperately wanted to be a short film. What´s lacking for me is the edit. Cut out the photos that don´t REALLY say something important. And there are a lot that don´t. They distract from the real telling moments. There are photos that do overcome fiction and manage to express the relationship stages you want to show. There´s pain and happiness, confusion and loss in these photos. It´s just that they´re all mixed up with others that just sort of embroider on the story without showing anything meaningful. One day that simply is not doing it for me is the first day..the date, the flirting, the romantic energy building up. You look more like two kids who are about to be forced into an arranged marriage and there´s no sense of attraction whatsoever. Somewhere along the line you both did come to like each other but that is sorely missing on the first day which is where we should be Hoover´d in and kept turning the pages, photo after photo, plummeting towards the abrupt finale a week later. The thing that got me past the first day was the entire concept which i was really surprised and intrigued by. Very brave and difficult subject matter.

    Knowing the outcome of your working and personal relationship with your collaborator, i began looking for signs of the reality behind the fiction, where the edges might have started to fray, the possible origins of Seth´s disenchantment with the project. Whether it was personal or simply boredom with the original concept. I searched your eyes and his, your body language and his for what was the REAL capsule relationship behind the scenes. Irresistable i guess since the end of the project also meant the end of your relationship, both fictional and actual.

    An intriguing adventure..thanks!


  • I have to say I agree with Paul Treacy about wasting some time.
    Ellie I think pictures have to “talk” themselves, they shouldn’t need text to help.
    I think realization meant a great work from you guys but most of the pictures just don’t work in my opinion.
    All the best.

  • Kathleen,
    That’s an interesting observation. What you are sensing is that in the first few days, we were just play acting. Our actual real attraction and relationship didn’t develop until day thee and around the time of the wedding. That is when it started to feel like something real was happening.

    I would like to hear Zach weigh in here, but alas, he is no where to be found. I’m sure that he could offer some interesting perspective on this topic.

    I’m sounding like a broken record, but please read the blog/book for the most complete experience of the project.

  • It’s really too bad that some of you aren’t taking the time to dig deeper and try to understand what the project is really about. It’s not about a quick surface glance at some photos. It’s about so much more and I feel that by stating that ‘you are wasting your time’ is a glib and easy way to write off something that you have not fully experienced. In this case, being a multi-media conceptual project, you are right- just looking at a number of photos is not going to give you the whole experience. If the ideas invested in the project interest you in the slightest, I really encourage you to dig deeper. There is audio, text, me speaking on your tube, a book, etc. etc.
    Thanks for looking.

  • eeks..sorry, Ellie, i said Seth, not Zach..just being lazy and didn´t look back to confirm the name. If he ever sees this i hope he´ll forgive me. Will do, will check out the blog..but what has to make it or break it is the essay here. That´s what most/all will see.

    take care, Ellie and thanks again..interesting concept. I enjoyed the ride!


  • I would like to know, how young Rimbaud could describe this piece of work. which words he would use.

  • hi Ellie –

    I appreciate the conceptual nature of the piece but see the images here more as documentation of a happening, than as a stand alone art piece…you write “It’s about so much more..” but the reader/ viewership here is imbibing, and evaluating the piece as it is presented with some background text and the resulting photos from the experiment. If the piece needs audio or you speaking on youtube etc. to be appreciated for its breadth, I think it would make sense for you to present this as a mm /interactive /installation piece. As it is, I can only appreciate the concept itself and the concept of the follow through and implementation of the same. It can be tough to have your work up here by the often tough burn audience, but please know at large this is a great group offering personal honesty and not wishing to merely incite defensiveness. wishing you all the best…

  • Marcin, – ? on the love relationship as outlaid by Zach ? how about

    “One evening, I sat Beauty in my lap. – And I found her bitter. – And I cursed her.”


  • Not the proper medium for the idea, I think. I’d really like to see it as a documentary film, I think it would catch up more of the atmosphere (audio + movements) that must have been going on through your experiment.

  • I think my full comment is better off being posted in a place where we can have some discussion so I will write more over at “Working.”

    What I will say here is that this work and some of the above comments bring up the question (for me) as to the importance of concept vs content.

    IMHO concept should not be “worshipped” over content. Seems it often is these days. VERY often…

    Nothing personal Ellie. I’m talking about an entire genre of work, not yours specifically.
    If this is what floats your boat then by all means keep going and enjoy. Wishing you all the best.

  • Please watch the video podcasts …
    really, go see this film


    i agree… i just watched the whole 13 episodes…really great..i will watch it again…and thank u , thank u, thank u for introducing me/us to the work of Arin and Susan..

    now..Ellie..i think it was a great idea (capsule R)..Zach’s or yours or whoever though of it ..no doubt..
    as Erica said above: ” I appreciate the conceptual nature of the piece but see the images here more as documentation of a happening, than as a stand alone art piece… ”

    Now… (still laughing) with Cathy’s comment above..: ” concept vs content”.
    Cathy said:
    “IMHO concept should not be “worshipped” over content. Seems it often is these days. VERY often…”

    Cathy..:))) ..stop assuming and stop making your own theories…nobody’s worshiping Anything..relax…
    take it easy..re-read Ericas words…
    imo? Great concept…Poorly executed …unfortunately..very very poorly..i would suggest…please try it again…the photography part of it is no good…not only it does not stand alone without text..but even after reading the text,..watching the 3 parts of YouTube explanation..even then..the photos were still…average boring snapshots…Dont get discouraged…welcome to Burn …please though…give it another try..but this time think photography also…Because what goes on in your head is impossible to communicate it with the above photos…
    Ellie, ALL…
    please watch the 13 podcasts from a similar project to see the difference..to see what i mean…

  • Hi,

    It’s a roman photo (traduction??) Sorry, but the idea is not new and I am not convinced by photos…

    Best, audrey

  • I like the concept and am interested in the narrative aspects of photography in general, but I agree with folks here that the images in this piece don’t really sustain it. I can imagine this concept executed with richer, more probing photos. The ones here are so simple as to be cartoon-like (that’s not a criticism), so the overall effect is that of a graphic novel. There is a necessary cinematic feel to this project, but the cinematography isn’t very interesting.

  • If I stumbled upon this work in the last issue of Foam Magazine, if the photos were a bit better and if the edit were tighter/shorter, I could look at this with certain interest…..but I am afraid that’s a lot of if’s for me today.


  • Panos,
    I talk quite a bit about Four Eyed Monsters in my blog. Arin and Susan have been wonderful in conversation about our mutual projects.

    The snapshot aesthetic was purposeful for all of the critics out there.

    Goodye, I am signing (literally and figuratively) out. Hopefully Zach will step in. He seems to be afraid to engage in any sort of dialogue here but his voice needs to be heard.

  • Ellie

    We know that the snapshot aesthetic was intentionally (it is obvious) but also unfortunate.

    Besides Nan Goldin, Ryan McGinley or Terry Richardson use snapshot aesthetic properly.

  • He seems to be afraid to engage in any sort of dialogue here but his voice needs to be heard.

    not being sarcastic…no pun intended…but Ellie..dont be angry with Zach..his “voice” wont do the “art” side of the project any good…and nobody doubts the honesty of the project..i do believe in your good intentions..
    but..Obviously u fell in love with the guy (maybe he didnt “respond” accordingly..maybe he betrayed you…maybe this, maybe that …
    REGARDLESS…YOU got attached to the project..i see the greek tragedy here…
    All that drama is great..awesome…
    unfortunately.. the PHOTOS didnt work out well.. the photos were unable to communicate that “drama”…
    nothing personal…
    big hug

  • The concept of the work kind of reminds me of Jeff Wall’s View from an Apartment project, blurring the lines of documentary. His work culminated in a single large format photograph (which was met with both praise and criticism). To me, Wall’s stuff is all about reading the artist statement and then digging into the photograph – which I gather is what you were hoping we would all do with this work. A large format tableau, presented alone with a short preamble, is almost made to be explored. Unpacking 142 photos, a staged plot, an unstaged subplot, character development and an underlying theme is asking alot of your readers (though who says it can’t be successful!?). In the end, like with Jeff Wall’s work, some will “get it”, some won’t, some will “like it”, some won’t, but sometimes less is more. I would encourage you to look into Wall’s stuff, but also works like “Telex Iran” by Gilles Peress, and even “Capitolio” by Christopher Anderson (which I’ve been pretty into lately – revealing my bias), which are both multi-layered, cinematic tour de forces – with more than one photograph.

    Just my 2 cents.

  • I have read all comments here, and yes, it does look like shooting a prisoner of war!!!
    And yes Ellie has not been strong enough to stand by her idea with respect for the others ideas, and that I believe it’s a mistake.

    However, I must admit that this story is a “badly shot photo romance” with an intriguing concept behind, which has been totally and entirely spoiled by its realisation.

    The only things that come through are sadly the total sensation that Zach couldn’t give a toss about this project, and that you Ellie seem a bit of an eccentric Cindy Sherman wannabe. The latter confirmed by the picture number 86 which is the only (together with 104) good photo of the all essay, if we relate those with the concept. In pic 86 the stage it’s finally yours, the background color it’s perfect, your position, expression and pride to be a next mum, works perfectly within the composition of the image. The only thing is that, it appears so strongly how that seems to be your real environment, i.e selfportrait (full-on I’d suggest).

    Really nice concept though, I think you’re a bit of a genius who knows has tools, but is still uncertain on how to use them.

    I know it does sound very patronising indeed, but I am really not intending this, so please do accept my full apologies in case you’d feel attacked. In reality I believe that this is one good reason why David and Anton are publishing a diverse range of stuff, to promote the debate. So let’s go!!

  • From what I can gather this project has nothing to do with photography other than as a loose form of punctuation. That ‘punctuation’ seems to have been presented here without the rest of the material needed to understand fully the purpose of this work.
    Ammended reading lists are then added.
    Also ellebee said
    “being a multi-media conceptual project, you are right- just looking at a number of photos is not going to give you the whole experience.”

    — If that is the case then why publish it at all?? –in THIS form?



  • Weak concepts are hard to rescue

  • I struggle with snapshot a long time working on negative films mostly and results are weak or unsatisfying, because this is truly hard piece of photography. Not only technique but firstly intellectual part of whole work. Internet is plenty of snapshots blogs where young people taking photos of nothing and call it art of snapshots.
    And I think this is valuable when you know your work is weak.
    It’s mean that you are able to fight with this weakness.
    because we all can “play” photography
    or we can try do something valuable
    and it’s requires a lot of sweat, tears, effort, coffees or vodkas.

  • sweat, tears, effort, coffees or vodkas.
    and blood and…(fill the gap)..;)

  • Panos,

    You are one of my very favorite snapshot photographer, and for sure you are credible in it. Hats off.
    no sweat no tears and a lot of vodkas and… (fill the gap)

  • Ellie said on the artist statement:

I think it’d be a lot of fun, and I really hope somebody wants to do this with me. Even if you’re not interested in actually participating yourself, I’d love to get your feedback.

    I would love it if Jacob Aue Sobol would participate in the project with Ellie..but i would prefer Jacob as the photog this time..

  • Ahhh Marcin..i love the way you talk..i love the way you write..
    you are music to my ears..he he
    big hug

  • Sorry, Ellie and Zach, but it just didn’t work. For me anyway. Interesting concept and some good photos but it didn’t hold my interest. Guess I’m of the tight edit school because I found so much repetition here. Would actually like to see an edit with no more than 3 pics per day. If they were the best of the best it might work.

    Congrats on being published here on Burn. That counts for a lot.


  • Patricia

    You said it so well!


  • Ellie has an artist’s concept, idea… and at the first stage that’s very important. Ellie, you have done a very serious attempt… nice looking couple as well… Actually, this and similar concepts are very difficult to be realized photographically. It’s very important to concentrate on what you want to show with the whole essay, and with each chapter on its own… and then translate your thoughts into visual information… for the final presentation though, a good concept actually means nothing… visual aesthetic is vital here… that’s why we – painters, photographers… educate ourselves and practice in composition, technique, colors, shapes, light… if one wants to succeed with such photography (and other types of photography as well) besides the main concept, she has to show a fabulous visual aesthetic… human body language and expresions are crucial… Ellie’s work in progress. Ellie, you have chosen a very difficult road… don’t give up… regroup yourself, and keep working… I think it’s worthwhile… in any case… and for your own development as an artist.

    Ellie, I am with you, I keep my fingers crossed for you… should you need any assistance from me, don’t hesitate to contact me.

    Best wishes from Vilnius

  • Sorry Ellie, but I agree with most of the comments on this thread. You mention that your images here are part of a larger project, involving a blog, etc., but this is a photographic outlet (or so I am given to understand), so if you submit a photographic sequence (or essay) it should stand on its own merit. So it seems to me anyway.

  • Ellie

    Sorry, but I’m feeling the generation gap here. Tried out the blog link, too much work, you’re asking for a lot of my time, and I just don’t have the interest or the patience.

    I’m fascinated by this project however. The idea of “trying on” a life-style, (or from my perspective, a grown-up life) through this project was, I’m sure, a growth experience, perhaps even a life-changing one for you. Unfortunately, as a viewer of this project, aside from the curiosity factor, there is not enough here to make me want to explore it further. As I said, it could be the generational thing. I suspect single people your age might find it much more interesting.

    In any case, I’m glad to see this here on Burn, and congratulations for that. Good luck in your future photographic and romantic adventures.

  • Sorry Ellie, but I agree with most of the comments .
    Congrats on being published here on Burn .
    Un saludo

  • elliebeee

    I actually looked at the edit 2xs, all 100+ pics before writing, thought I was writing on the fly as my wife and i were off to see a Betty Goodwin exhibition…

    let me try to be more constructive:

    1) As a photographer who has been often the most outspoken in support of conceptual work, I must be honest with you. The idea doesn’t probe: the variance of the ‘craig list’ hookup/dance/matrimon-e-y/birth/separation…it just doesn’t crack the crook of human relationship. Even as an notion at dealing directly with artifice, it doesnt work. A good conceptual idea must hum with many things (be it intellectual or aesthetic or humour or subterfuge or anthropological or blackwitted, whatever) it just falls flat. Given all the extraordinary work that exists that deals with the nature of relationships (see Marina A. and all the action stuff with her first husband) to sophie calle ( recommend you have a peek at her stuff) including contemporary husband/wife photographers who explore similiar terrain. the problem is that the conceit and the conception of both this essay and the longer/deeper version still doesn’t mine some basic ideas of human relationships: loss, pain, bewilderment, energetic dislocation and connection. Frankly, it looks like a photographic reinterpretation of the 80’s tv show, ironically filmed in PHilly, thirtysomething…only twentysomething art school version…it just has not of the grist of what the relationship dance (even in parody) is about….add to the the introduction of a child, then vanished…..thus the narrative just goes nowhere, from a conceptual or viewer point of view…

    2) the pics themselves lack something fundamental: the challenge to the viewer. even if the photographic principle underlying the conceptual is ‘neutral’ (which it often is in conceptual work) there still shouldT be questions that underlie the media in order for this to be of interest. photogrpahically, the pictures left me completely indifferent, and i offer that as both a photographer and a viewer…nothing memorable…and if the pictures themselves don’t challenge or inspire or stimulate my visual character than the conceptual idea had better be strong…in other words, that failed for me too…

    at a moment when the Whitney is running their b-show that contains pictures from Nina berman’s story on the continuing relationship of Ty Ziegel & Renee Kline, you’d better have a stronger concept of what challenges the nature of ‘documentary’ work and relationships…

    what I did LOVE about your story, however is that it absolutely has a wonderful sense of humour and a wonderful tongue-and-cheek approach to all the bullshit about romance we see on web, on tv, in books etc…the humour at the center of this story, is the critical hinge for me….i only wish he had evoked something more stange…either visually or conceptually…

    but that humour is the core, for me i think….

    anyway, hope i dont sound too harsh…im usually not that harswh ;))


  • o….ps.

    hey, just looked at the Blurb book:!!

    THE BOOK SOOOOO WORKS! :)))))))))))))))…..all that text and the graphic relationship to the pics….now that’s what im talking about!…

    it is an example of just how BADLY the web can go for certain things….

    Ellie: the blurp books works ’cause the underlying text and the use of pictures there gets closer to the ‘concept’ realized, than the essay here which is just a linear narration….

    my only caveat: get us some real meaty pictures for that book…


    etc ;))


  • Hi Ellie…
    I bailed out at about 37…

    The idea, a artificially constructed story..? thats a good idea..

  • Ellie

    me too…i just looked at and ¨read¨ (as much as i could of that squinty little type) the entire Blurb book. Wow, i am like Bob..it SO works! The layout´s great, the pics work and the text breaks my heart with its sincerity, bewilderment, integrity, and intensity. Your and Zach´s accomplishments are quite real and credible. The experiment was so arduous i can´t even imagine attempting such a thing. At the end of day ten i felt i had experienced an entire relationship that had gone on for months at least..i kept having to remind myself, a week and a half..that´s all this has been..i felt the weight of this concentrated relationship on my shoulders and they ached from the stress of the life events you both endeavored to experience with all the honesty you could bring to the table. In the end i was surprised and sad that you broke up though it also seems a fait accompli and there was nothing either of you could really do to stop it from happening. The very pretext that brought you together would inevitably split you apart.

    While your insistence that this piece lacks Zach´s input, i disagree. I think you have done an amazing job bringing this project full circle and you no longer require his participation. Sorry to say it but he seems at this point more of a sperm donor to the project than a long term collaborator. I also looked at the photos in your book about your sisters. They´re great, Ellie. I wish you a long and propserous and successful artistic career. You´ll be fine. Good luck and, of course, good love!

    Oh, and by the way, odd as this is going to sound..i live in Ciudad Colon in Costa Rica, home of the David and Julia White Artist Colony where you did a residency. I live literally 1/2 kilometer away :) Small world, eh?


  • I’m with Bob and Kathleen. The Blurb book really WORKS! Ellie, you did a spectacular job of layout, both you and Zach write well and with great honesty, and the photos really do the job when accompanied by the text and laid out the way you did.

    I find it fascinating that the success of a project like this is SO dependent on the format and presentation! It sure gives me food for thought with my own work.

    Again, the link to the Blurb book is


    Ellie, keep exploring conceptual projects using photos and text. You are really onto something…


  • what’s that nursery rhyme?
    first comes love,
    then comes marriage..
    then comes joey in the baby carriage…..
    112 images?!?!?!?!!?
    I think a short narrative film might be a better medium to explore your concept…..

  • I have seen the book before all my comments so it change nothing to me.

  • I can’t believe it. I posted a fairly lengthy comment earlier – nothing rude, nothing abusive, nothing offensive – and now its gone. I am certain no one would have censored it, so it must be the result of some weird fluke

    I don’t have the energy to do it again, so I will just write it off as that much more time out of my life wasted to no end at all and will wait for the next essay.

  • Looking at the book – I agree with the others saying it works better.
    The essay here has too many pictures, it is too long. If it was edited like the book, and some sequences were brought as a collage, it probably worked better.

    Look for the essence of what you want to express, and show that one picture. It gets much more to the point, and it reaches the audience. In the booked you did that by having different picture size – and sequences.

    Please don’t see any of the comments as nasty. Actually they are feedback and all intended to make your essays better. That’s why we all are here and why we get published.

    Thanks for showing and DAH, Anton – thanks for publishing this essay.

  • “ever get the feeling you’ve been had?” – John Lydon.

  • interesting concept, but a sever lack of captured emotion for me.
    too many ‘blank faces’.

  • Ellie:

    one last comment (after a night of sleep)…

    the idea of a constructed relationship and the ‘documentation’ of that is a brilliant one. from the beginning i really liked this conceit. I think, further, it is lovely for Burn and important (for others) that the stretch of what photography is ‘allowed’ to work is stretched. As i hinted at, I am a very very big fan of Sophie Calle (she was one of my hero when i was in school, along with all the french noveau romain chaps) and her work is what i am suggesting as an intersection of the idea: intriguing photography, text with a brilliant concept. I also did like the ‘staged/artiface’ of the pic themselves only the problem is that since the germination of the story never intrigued as much (a conventional story, when in reality all relationships appear conventional on the surface, but internally are as unique and disparate as anything else: remember tolstoy’s slog on families, happy and unhappy) as what happens to real folks….as a play off the idea of a capsule relationship, yea, but since you have expanded it visually (the amount of pics and the content), it then necessitates something to pique…but more interesting is your suggestion of it’s reality….you were truly emotionally involved (and unforeseeable), you were hurt, you feel loss now…in other words, the real came up, anyway, from a staged….that IS what i tried to suggest in my 1st comment: that’s the irony and the dark swelling of when we attempt to grapple with life and people, we can traduced…the great (and often) grave irony….

    but the book goes so much farther…the text itself gives the viewer/reader anchoring and allows for the weight to be distributed between text/pic and the full conceit becomes more memorable….i really really like the book and i hope more folks here revisit that, because it seems a much more logical and organic ending that just a stringing together of pictures in a linear narrative as we see here…

    the real seduction and the real humor and beauty of the idea is in that book….not in the essay here…

    but bravo for burn for taking the chance….

    as a conceptual cat myself, it took me sometime to get to that book (i wish i’d seen/figured it out sooner), but that’s the difference: part of the process of making anything involves how the work is ultimately shown…

    imagine a book of Marina A’s performance ‘house with an ocean view’…makes no sense compared with the actually performance of people watching her ‘live’ in front of them in a gallery, just as books/photographs (with the exception of kouldelka and house) often look still/stilted….

    thanks for sharing…

    now, gotta disappear, 1 week ’til deadline


  • typo, when i wrote “just as books/photographs (with the exception of kouldelka and house) often look still/stilted….”

    i meant “just as books/photographs (with the exception of kouldelka and Hosoe)on theatre”…i meant photographs of theatre productions/performance often look stilted…or fail to convey the power of the performance/idea itself….

    and also that part of the intriguing and important element of Ellie’s project is that the conceit of the project traduced her: attempting to great a fictional relationship, one in fact (so we learn) evolved, involving real emotions, real pain, etc….that’s what i also wanted to see and would make the concept that much more powerful: john cage’s arrangements ended up conveying real response and emotion in the audience from the transitor’s gravely voice )))

    by the way, here is the project by Berman i alluded to

    “Marine wedding”….

    and this is not construction but the power of a real realtionship and the horror and the magnificent beauty of real people…



  • The only thing predictable about BURN is that the work chosen for display allows us to think of “other” possibilities. Ellie and Zack’s project is personal. It has to be personal because of the emotion required, along with the fact that they play the central role in their project.

    Telling this story as a series of images is not its proper format: too one-dimensional. The blurb book certainly gets a bit closer, the blog helps, the YouTube pieces say something. This story needs to harness the technology available to them. OK, see where this is going Ellie?

    You and Zack took a fictitious relationship that kind of turned into a real relationship which kind of turned into a shared project that you no longer share — Very complicated.

    I hope you and Zack take the good advice offered here without taking it personally. A most difficult proposition, stepping back from yourself.

  • It’s all personal when it’s your life.
    If you take a look at any other of my photographic projects, they all have a different emotional tone. Some are very distant and some are close to home. This was experimental for me in that I normally do not photograph myself, do performative work or expose so much about my own life. The entire experience of the project which occurred in 2009, was the most intense project I had ever been through. Photographing my sisters for ten years had nothing on the emotional impact of the CAPSULE. It makes me quite sad that many of the comments here are so quick to judge on some sort of superior photographic merit. Thank you to those of you who have taken the time to read and try to understand the project in its entirety. It is most certainly way beyond the scope of what appears here. I frankly didn’t anticipate just showing images being such an issue but now I see that because it is a multi-media project that more should have been included.

  • Ellie…the best thing about you is that you are thinking “out of the box”..
    Most of the great artists were never understood or accepted when they first came out…
    Later of course the became “great, iconic..etc”
    Do not worry..this is not the “american idol” here..
    However..u have to understand the Burn audience though… no matter how “tough” it appears to be…
    reason is: it expects way too much..especially from photography..or the photographic “part” of any concept..
    You wrote:
    “…The entire experience of the project which occurred in 2009, was the most intense project I had ever been..”
    The audience though does not know that..It expects from the artist to make that obvious through the photos…not through captions or explanations…Photography here comes first..the original idea sometimes second..and i totally agree with you when u say:
    “… such an issue but now I see that because it is a multi-media project that more should have been included….”
    Exactly…in your project to be felt (emotions) video should have been the main way to go with maybe a few stills included…or the photography should be in a much “higher” level…
    Of course who can achieve that in 7 days??? i dont know..but i would personally prefer to see 7 great photos that represent each day..instead of an exhausting repetition of 100something similar ( i dont wanna say boring) photos…that literally remove the power of the idea instead of empowering it…
    but who knows…i could be wrong…maybe there is some dark sense of humor and i totally missed it..which is very possible indeed..
    welcome to Burn
    big hug

  • elliebeee – I think you doing both yourself/photographic process and the burn audience a disservice by allowing yourself to believe that many here were quick to judge; I think the opposite it closer to the truth and considered responses were given so that your work in the future could benefit from the experience of the audience. I wish our words could be a springboard for you…

  • Ellie, I understand your concept and a lot of work, you totally put a lot and sentimentally, but there is sometimes a difference between what you want to say and what it says…

    I like a lot the work on your sisters

    all the best, audrey

  • ellie..
    of course we are only seeing and reading half the story and i feel for you that your partner in this work is shying away from joining in.. more power to you for staying the course.. and a little shame on him for abandoning you at this stage.

    i think as a concept it´s strong and promotes a greater level of thought than most put into having a baby and getting married.. 45% of marriages in the u.k. with children end just as your fictional one did.. relationship scripts or just plain thoughtlessness.. there is a train of thought to follow..

    it´s been a long road in doing the work and i suspect there is some way to go.. no time to see the book.. sounds like you have nailed it there…

    stick around.. no one intends hurt i´m sure..

  • Erica

    Actually, the Rimbaud quote you posted yesterday pointedly and painfully summed up this entire piece. And more so if you read the book. Those words haunt me, and i repeat from memory, ¨One evening he sat Beauty on his lap and her taste was bitter and he cursed her¨. Maybe it´s not word for word but it has been going around my mind like a mantra. A chilling capsulized summary of a capsulized relationship.


  • (by ¨the book¨.i mean the Blurb book)

  • Just read the Blub book. Yes! Love it. Absolutely fascinating. A multi-media piece would have worked so much better here.


    yes, perhaps…in that case, a multi-media piece should have been presented or discussed with us..Ellie has stood by this presentation for several months…..i still think the book and/or a really provocative installation would be great vehicles to tell this story….

  • Looks like there are a fair few here that may want to brush up on their contemporary art practice processesand repost some of their comments ………… just a thought

  • Remember it is a performance art piece

  • well i’ve watched it a few times now, and i’ve enjoyed it more each time.
    i went from a curiosity about what you decided were key moments, to really looking at the details and deciding which were more real than others, and i ended up feeling that i really was just a viewer of your relationship.
    it’s SO unpretentious and so real… it really worked for me, and i don’t see how you could have done it with less pictures, but it’s something you really need to watch more than a couple of times to feel the connection, to cross from the project into accepting it’s reality. (whilst knowing it’s not :).

  • Great concept – far too many photos. Easily could have gotten the idea and told the story with two-four of the best per section easily. Best of luck with future projects!

  • Welcome back, Ellie! Hope you see how your essay has sparked a lot of thought, consideration and comments. And I sure hope you’ll stick around. This is a great place for committed photogs and just plain interesting people to discuss a myriad of subjects. Besides DAH has an eye for intriguing essays.


  • Again, I appreciate the thoughtful comments and support as opposed to the attacking side of things.

    I encourage and challenge all of you to engage in some sort of conceptual situation and to document it however you choose. I am really interested to see/hear what any of you would come up with. Before our working relationship was dissolved, Zach and I wanted to start a website of other people doing conceptually based capsule projects, i.e. playing out a concept in a finite period of time. Please take this or any idea and run with it. I’m very interested to hear about other people’s experiences with this or a related theme. If you need ideas, I can ‘assign’ one to you.

  • Ellie,

    we don’t need to go into your experiences to be able to see or give feedback on your essay.
    I perceive the feedback the people here gave to you as very valuable – even those, which you perceived as nasty. Step back from your emotions and listen again to the feedback. Think about it, look at your work again.
    Then, accept or dismiss the feedback – but please understand that everybody commenting here and in dialogue does it to support you becomming better. If the viewers of your essay “don’t get it”, it is not their fault. Maybe something important was missing in the first place.
    Think about it.

    When my essay was published, some really challenging comments were made. They helped me thinking about my work – and some of the comments were so right.
    Now, I would like you to have a look – and ask you to comment your thoughts about the essay/series …

  • Ellie:

    As a photographer, nearly every project that I have done and exhibited has come from a conceptual germination: the ideas, always, in seed and sprouting, have come from the intersection of idea (and words, since I am also a writer) and surrounding….on April 1st, a new essay will be published (which is part of a long book i’ve been at work on) at another magazine that is ‘conceptual’ in it’s basis…i cant reveal the essay or the publication as yet (David is aware) but rest assured some of us have done this…my 3 week essay was shown here (bones of time) when Burn was first published…and my 2-week project on faces, and the interaction between me and faces was a finalist for David’s First Emerging Photographers Fund Award and was later shown by David at Look3…..i wish to god, i could share with you now the new essay, but i must be patient….

    nearly everything i make comes from the limitation of time…for my first essay for david I limited myself severely: to 2 weeks, 5 rolls of film, nothing more. I also limited the interaction to 6 people, pics of 6 people, 3 from korea, 2 from japan, 1 from turkey….a small selection of that final essay (35 pics) is on David’s original website (10 pics, were shown at Look3)….

    david knows much more about my work, but i would invite you to hang around…i tend to write alot here, but i’m under a lot of pressure to finalize this other project…

    and by the way, i’ve also made an essay specifically FOR BURN….that i will send to David and Anton in May/June….it’s conceptual….and for them….i am sure it’ll kick up some nickers too….

    and i can assure you that when Bones was published here it took a lot of heat…and who cares, right?….what matters, in truth, is not whether or not others like/appreciate/get, but that we persevere in our getting the stuck unstuck from the back of our throats and the caverns of our honeycomb’d insides…that’s why we’re artists to begin with right?….hang tough….

    Imants: hmmm, not fair. you know as well as i that many many here do not have the background in art or art history that you and I have and doesnt does not vitiate their perspectives…as i’ve trumped 1,000,000 it is important that photographers expand their visual horizons and references, but my criticism of ellie and zack’s project comes directly from an art basis….artists practicing conceptual performance photo-based projects should also be aware of contemporary language and theory about the practice…when Nina shows in the Whitney, one must begin to reexamine how one’s own conceptual relationship to document comes into account…..that in mind, i loved the idea of the project, alot…especially it’s humor….i loved the book, i just didnt like at all the essay here…it fails to deal with some of the concept’s requirements and it is weak in comparison to the text/images in the book….and you know that I love endless amounts of pics ;))))…wait until ‘and our memories’ is published, good god ;))…..anyway…..

    book dummy looks lovely

    gotta split


  • …or just go out in the world and have ‘actual’ experiences and adventures, and take huge risks, and fail, and succeed, and stake it all on a single roll, win or lose you always win…and move on and do it some more.

  • John:

    this is exactly right! :))))

  • JOHN…

    yes, of course, that is what you do and me too….but not everyone uses photography for the same reasons nor has the same predilections…we all have different things in our hearts and heads that are going to come out one way or the other…frankly, i love fiction…with fiction you can really tell the truth…as you well know, there are some writers who do both fiction and non-fiction and a few photographers as well…obviously Ellie had something on her mind..something that could not be done by walking down the street with a Leica…shouldn’t she be allowed her own form of expression? yes, i see the weaknesses in her essay, but i also see someone really trying to substantiate and affiliate compound ideas …how she grows from this will be interesting to see i think…but i doubt it will be in the direction of straight documentary photography…nor should it be imo….sure she can do her work more succinct and with more raw visual power….but some of the essays that many seem to like here in the photo-j category go by unscathed when in fact they are no better versions of that genre than Ellie is in hers and required a whole lot less thought than Ellie put into her work….just my opinion…

    coming to Spain in April with a quick stop in London…any chance for a cold beer??

    cheers, david

  • with fiction you can really tell the truth

    yes! i am starting to believe that more and more….

  • Kenneth,
    I like that quote.

    For the record, this project was an experiment. It is not my usual mode of working. I actually consider myself a documentary photographer if you asked me any other day. So, I tried something new and stepped outside of my comfort zone as an artist and photographer. It was and IS very hard to make one’s self so vulnerable in this way- to make the private so public. My request for everyone to try a capsule experience was not me being cheeky. It was a sincere query to ask yourselves what sort of challenge you would undertake?

    This is not a project that I am planning to work on further or will ever revisit. It is done. I had the experience and I don’t need to repeat it. So….thanks for the ‘in the future of this project’ comments, but it is really over. I’m back to being behind the camera now.

  • “with fiction you can really tell the truth”

    David A…,…, anyway, thanks.

  • yeah, sorry. that quote was taken from dah in the comments above mine

  • elliebee

    Thanks. You’ve pushed me a little further along. Not sure if I’ll ever try a “capsule” project, but love the concept. I think you’ve pushed us all a little further along.

  • ELLIE..

    you obviously missed my comment above where i was trying to make a case for you as a conceptual photographer with room to grow…funny…now, you describe yourself as a documentary photographer…in looking at your website and work on Flickr i do not see any documentary work…only with Two Sisters do you have the documentary approach which is quite nice…in any case, we will wait to see what you do next…thanks for sticking around….

    cheers, david

  • I actually consider myself a documentary photographer if you asked me any other day.
    ok..now im getting dizzy…time for me to go to bed…goodnight everyone…3:07 here…
    big hug

  • interesting idea, well documented.. i really like it!
    best wishes-

  • what capsule project would i do?
    bill paying.. residency forms.. tax returns.. washing-up..
    would be quicker than doing it in reality.

    the project i would really like to do – which condenses time and events into a manageable, fictional account – would be a short film..
    fiction can indeed be a good way of telling the truth and i´ve wanted to make one highlighting some of my real experiences as a photographer working in the music industry for a long while..
    condense 12 years into a one-month-in-the-life… highlights and low-lifes.
    it would be one way of getting round the lawyers :ø)

    how about life as a conceptual experiment?
    having one simple and unlikely wish – then creating a reality which fits that idea?

  • “…or just go out in the world and have ‘actual’ experiences and adventures, and take huge risks, and fail, and succeed, and stake it all on a single roll, win or lose you always win…and move on and do it some more.”

    I like John’s way.

  • Ellie, one question (and I do not need an answer, I have got mine): do you think to photograph your backyard, your family, your real life in opposite to a project like you did as less emontionally draining? Couldn’t it be that far or near (conceptual or real) has nothing to do with it, but all with the emotions you put into the work, whatever it might be?

    The reslult, to me, is still the same, whatever you do it must be convincing.. if it’s not then critiques come in, the moment you put out the work to public (which is a free choice btw). It doesn’t matter how hard the whole thing has been on you, for the quality of the work it cannot matter, no excuses and no hiding behind emotional attachment to the work. I don’t say it’s easy, but there’s no difference between in-capsule and out-capsule relationships.

  • Again getting my comment in a little late, behind the eight ball again. IMO as a internet based photo essay the images lack the visual language to communicate the intense emotions described and even felt by the artists. I would have loved this piece with a shorter edit, and copy from the book read over the photographs. I think there is a place in between straight photography and short films that can work as multimedia. I have stated before I think that is the future of photography on the internet. The internet is the most common vehicle to view photography today so it has too work online as well as in print, and in galleries. We are dealing with info/image overload, if the images do not strike at some deep subconscious level they will be forgotten. I don’t think any artist wants their work to be forgotten.

    From a personal perspective I have (as many others here quite assuredly) have experienced the range of emotions attempting to be communicated here. In 5 yrs I have dated, proposed, , married, had two kids, and very nearly ended up in separation and divorce (still not out of the woods) so from personal experience the photo essay feels contrived, immature, lacking in depth, cold, artificial, patronizing, and lacking any reel drama, or pathos. If that was the intent then I think the essay has succeeded. Again I am describing the visual imagery and technique here. I think as a photographic experiment it is quite interesting and worth the attempt. Not all experiments end in success but that does not stop us from searching for the philosopher’s stone. Keep up your spirits and your work.

    All the best,


  • Eva,
    I guess you missed ‘Two Girls: My Sisters 1996-2006’? http://www.elliebrown.com

  • Ellie, no, I’ve not missed ‘Two Girls’, nor your whole blog about the project, nor the Blurb book.. nor your flickr account either, but have to say that I didn’t look through all of the pictures there, just too much..

  • wow…the concept here is really original! well done!

  • I know this is a simple reading, but if you just strip out the disconcerting requirement of making the piece about the emotional journey you travelled in the making of the piece you’d have something different and more modest but imo more satisfying.

    I know it’s about the power of the script you were satirizing to suck you in, but just at face value it’s a valuable satirical statement, which you started off trying to make, about the pessimism of so many X-ers of the likelihood of finding the meaning and fulfillment they were promised by that script. What some commenters here are seeing as emotionally emptiness I’m seeing as faces full of defensive resignation to inevitable failure. When the piece is framed so the viewer is already anticipating the end, then the friction between the hope (which is never completely lost) and the expected reality – the impossibility of
    ever not being alone – comes through in just about every shot. Like some fellow said, when you say “I love you”, it’s a prayer to the gods who may make it so, but you know they rarely listen. The snapshot aesthetic works because it emphasises the superficiality of the relationship – a shallowness to it all.

    That’d be a pretty thin piece for many, I know, but that’s the level it works best at for me. To make a statement like that with photography and a good-natured wit is quite something.

    Best wishes with future work.

  • This is very nice, funny and original; though not incredible under a photographic point of view, it’s the typical example of how a great idea goes beyond technicalities.

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