Locally Grown: A Chat With an Up-and-Coming Photographer Eliza Gallo

Things Mag staff writer Zelda Mayer sat down with local photographer Eliza Gallo to talk about living in the city, how it affects one's art and the importance of building artistic communities.

Zelda: Tell me a little bit about you, please.

Eliza:  Well, my name’s Eliza Gallo, I’m 16, I live in the Boston area and I’m a sophomore at the Cambridge School of Weston. I didn't know I wanted to be an artist 'til I got to high school, so it was a really nice coincidence that I was already going to an art school [laughs].

Zelda: That worked out nicely.

Eliza: Yeah! I remember my freshmen year I took a photography class and it ended up being sort of my gateway to being an artist, really.  At the time it seemed less intimidating to me than the other art classes, which I now know isn’t true, but I guess it was a good way to break into the whole scene. It was a good way to begin, especially being younger in a school full of older artists; not everyone can take a good picture but at least everyone can take a picture.

Zelda: How has living in Boston affected and influenced your work as a photographer?

Eliza: I definitely think that living in Boston and living in an urban area in general has influenced me. I don't think I would've even discovered art if I wasn't living here, here being on the East Coast and in a big city. I feel like if I lived in a more suburban area I would have gone the normal high school-to-college-to-office-job route. I’m also very influenced by the people I meet, inside and outside of school. I’ve met so many different people at places like Harvard Square or Out of the Blue Too, [a local art gallery and venue]. I actually go to a lot of shows at Out of the Blue Too. I totally remember I was there and I was seeing this band, in the crowd talking to everyone and listening to the music, I had this epiphany that I wanted to an artist. The whole atmosphere, everything, made me want to be a part of the Boston community of artists.

Zelda: That’s so real.

Eliza: So my work, I started out doing a lot of street photography, which is weird because it's hard, but it was a very casual way to get started. I enjoyed my time in the city alone. Over the summer I would take entire days walking from my house to Boston, just walking. At the end of the summer I had like 30 rolls, it was unreal. And then this year I broke into environmental portrait for the first time. I try to look for the best, but imperfect, situations when I’m photographing people. I want the pictures to capture the awkwardness of real life that comes with the city, too. Many pictures are like a glorification of a certain moment. In reality nothing is seamless.

Zelda: And living here has helped you?

Eliza: I definitely think that Boston more so than other cities has a strong art community and I improved by seeing what other people were doing and by talking to people in a natural way. I also feel like when people see me in passing they don't know what my life is like, but when they see my photos it identifies me. People can live near me and still have very different experiences. I want to put out what I'm experiencing for people to see. Document my life even though we're living in the same place. My P.O.V.

Zelda: How has photography changed your life?

Eliza: I am constantly looking for relationships between objects and people and everything in between. I recognize stuff like that now. I see everything like I’m about to take a picture even if I don't have a camera, how I would compose it or frame it. I can't stop, it's a forever thing now; I'm constantly trying to give depth like the visual aspect of it. I find myself running to the other side of something to get the perfect shot without having a camera with me.

Zelda: What do you think your photos aim to say?

Eliza: Basically when I photograph someone I'm trying to open up a little window to their life. To expose something. Maybe something they don’t even know about themselves. I want to capture their full, true self, almost an exaggerated version of them. Typically, I know something about the person I’m shooting and I try to represent that without being literal. Living in Boston, the subjects that I use tend to be more multi-faceted, coming from their experiences and upbringing in the city. City kids have so much depth in my opinion. They’ve seen a lot, they’ve lived through a lot, there’s just so much going on underneath their skin that can be exposed through photography.

Zelda: Do you have any advice for people looking to start photography?

Eliza: I’d say definitely don't settle for any styles. Explore every style, you never know what's gonna suit you. The best part of photography is that you can convey a story or a message through your photos. You always want the viewer to walk away knowing something they didn’t know before or a maybe a different outlook on a topic. You want them to take something meaningful away they'll think about in the future. It needs to resonate whether it's a feeling or a solid idea.

Zelda: Thank you, Eliza. That was very beautiful.

Eliza: Thanks for the opportunity! I didn't know everything I was thinking until I said it out loud.

text: zelda mayer
visual: eliza gallo
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