Oak trees blowing in the wind by Ëpha J. Roe

EP1 – Ëpha J. Roe on discovering photography and using creativity to take back control

“I don’t know where I would have been if I hadn’t been able to express myself in that way...”

In this episode, Mike speaks to his good friend Ëpha J. Roe – an artist and writer whose expansive work utilises traditional and alternative photographic techniques to examine the complex relationship between humans, the natural world, cultural heritage, and identity.

The conversation explores Ëpha’s photography and writing, his anthropological and highly conceptual approach to image-making, the personal experiences that have shaped his practice, and the immense power that creativity has held for him in discovering and embracing a true sense of self.

Inspired by the growing interest in plant intelligence and the increasing socio-political concern surrounding climate change, Ëpha’s artistic practice and PhD studies interrogate how humans conceptualise and relate to the plant kingdom through mythological, scientific and cultural means. His work is also deeply informed by explorations of heritage, identity, gender, perception, presentation and the anthropological nature of creativity itself.

Through our conversation, Ëpha shares insights into finding similarities between nature and personal identity, the importance of creativity as a means of self-expression and empowerment, the role of research and theory in their practice, and the constant evolution of the self.

Queen Elizabeth I Oak, Cowdray Park, Midhurst, from the series Arboreal Encounters as part of the practice-based PhD project ‘Photosymbiosis: Towards a Photographic Method of Collaboration with England’s Heritage Oak Tree’s’, 2021. 21 x 29.7cm print on 29.7 x 42cm paper. Oak leaf tannin-toned cyanotype on Langton watercolour paper.

Follow Ëpha @ephajroe, Mike @mikeraven and Self Esteem @slfestm on Instagram, and see more of Ëpha’s work at www.ephajroe.com.

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All Things Considered…

Thoughts on creativity from Host Mike Raven

Ëpha J. Roe.

When I began this journey to explore what it means to be creative, I wasn’t sure what I’d discover.

I felt magnetised to the thought that creativity is more than an ‘idea’. It lives in everyone. Innate. Biological. A network of receptors waiting for stimulation to fire blindingly bright sparks of colour, texture, language and emotion through our minds to produce the closest thing to ‘magic’ we will ever experience.

Creation is “the action or process of bringing something into existence”. To be human is to create – a predisposition incidentally defined in our creation. So why do most of us initially fail to harness the physical and emotional power of creativity? Instead, resigning it to a one-dimensional notion: Creativity = art.

This blind approach to creativity isn’t uncommon. Most of us subconsciously require ‘weight’ for creativity to exist, and existence itself takes up physical space – people, products, and the planet. But what about emotion and opinion? The idea that creativity is the product of our thoughts is blithely mistaken. They are one of the same, and therein lies the barrier to a truly creative mindset.

In my discussion with Ëpha, he recounted his years turning to photography as a way to question the expectations posed upon him, specifically in his youth. What’s unique about his approach to scrutinising the perceptions of others was to be found in the creativity of his thoughts:

“I started to explore how people felt about me through photographic form… I was interested in the nuances of what makes the shift in people perceiving me in a certain way, and I was exploring that through photographs and using myself as the vessel for that”.

Being ‘creative’ in its most elemental form is all about curiosity. What do we think? What will we discover? Creativity is the exploration and expression of everything on our terms… The irony is that we all possess this way of thinking. It’s our birthright. Often, however, we don’t know how to use it. The magic comes when creativity takes it upon itself to help.

“The creative process is access to the subconscious. I was probably working through things I didn’t have a language for, but I was giving voice to it through images rather than speaking it. I’ve just realised that now”.

Before talking to Ëpha, I would have vehemently protested that everyone needs to understand their creative power and harness it every day. Whilst I still believe everyone would benefit from understanding what their creative mind is capable of, I’d also propose that, perhaps, we don’t, as I suggested, ‘fail’ to harness the power of creativity. Rather that we are all born with a time to discover and unlock our creativity… Just when it’s right for us.

Creativity is existential. It is, in essence, both an act and a feeling. The latter, often unnoticed, will always seek to bring about new versions of self-discovery, small but substantial fireworks of experience. The former is a physical manifestation of those cosmic embers erupting around us.

So, next time inspiration strikes in one of its many forms, look up and remember how it felt when you discovered how it felt to be truly alive. You might learn something new about yourself.

FOLLOW ME @mikeraven