“Just keep shooting”, are the wise words that fueled Elise Michaux’s determination in photography. Elise is a Connellsville, PA native that grew up with her preacher employed father and teacher mother. Both of whom are huge influences in her life. Elise is a graduate of Slippery Rock University where she studied English Literature. At first, Elise wanted to follow in her mother’s footsteps of becoming a teacher, but it turned out her passion was with working within the Higher Education realm. She is currently working for Seton Hill as the Director of Student Involvement, where she is basically in charge of all the fun activities that students are able to participate in when they are not in class.
Elise never even thought she would have gone to college, let alone having it becoming a major part of her life. She is so humbled by all of the amazing opportunities that working for a university has allowed her to be a part of and grow into as a person. One of those amazing opportunities ended up being photography. Elise was selected to take charge of the Social Media for Seton Hill University. She began snapping shots of students at school and the scenery that surrounded her. It was just in July of 2016 that Elise bought herself her first camera. That means this amazing artist has only been shooting for a little over a year.
I asked Elise what influences allowed helped her improve her photography, and she responded by saying “I was able to see such a huge transformation over such a short amount of time, that made it easier for me to want to keep going and learning”. She expressed to me how she turns to other photographers for guidance and criticism. It is important for her to get feedback from artists that have been in the game for quite some time. Elise expressed that she is highly influenced by the people she is photographing. That is what fuels her creativity and focus. She is so focused on the beauty in front of the camera, that it has challenged her to see people in a different way and allow them to view themselves and their beauty in a different way.
“Love God. Love People”, is a quote that Elise shared with me which was spoken by the incredible Joyce Meyer. To her, this quote is relevant in many areas of her life. She believes that photography has really showed her ways of viewing beauty in other ways. Elise loves how her photography allows her to show off these different people. Seeing their beauty unfold before her camera is what makes her so passionate about the art of photography. It is all about the person in front of her.
I asked Elise what sets her apart from other photographers in Pittsburgh, and she explained to me how her photography shows off the style of different races, cultures, and forms of beauty that some photographers might be a little scared about exploring. She stressed to me how important is was for her to show off these diverse women and men in her photography because that is not necessarily the norm around this area. However, it allows her to take the reigns of photography and show this city and world the many forms of beauty.
With it being Black History Month, Elise had the awesome idea to have local models look into iconic people or photos that they emulate. She and the models would then recreate the iconic photos and do a side-by-side with the original. The model would explain the history of the photo or person that they are recreating and a little bit about why they chose this photo or person. This is an idea that has locally never been done before, especially with women of color. That is why Elise is so special to the world of photography.
Her amazingness doesn’t stop there. Elise and her close friend Ray Carrington decided to start a workshop called “Exposure”. Elise explained to me that Exposure was like “speed dating”. It is basically a workshop that allows models and photographers to get paired up for a number of minutes and then they switch. This allows photographers to get a variety of shots with different models, as well as models being able to get more experience and different types of shots in front of the lens. It provides both the models and the photographers with one-on-one experiences that encourage feedback and teamwork. Exposure is open to all levels of photographers and models, as well as people new to the Pittsburgh scene. This month Exposure is traveling to DC. This is one of the reasons why Exposure is so great, because it allows these artists to travel to different locations and build up their portfolios. Elise’s goal for Exposure is to have it grow to be more than just a Pittsburgh thing. She would love for there to be an “Exposure DC” or “Exposure NYC”. If you are interested in being a part of an Exposure workshop, follow @exposure.pittsburgh on Instagram for more details.
As you can tell Elise is very passionate about being a part of a community that allows creative people to work together and share their passions with others in the area. She works closely with local bloggers, models, and photographers in the city. Elise mentioned to me that being a part of a community that builds each other up and works together is why she stays so inspired.
To close out the interview I asked Elise what some of her goals were for the future. She shared with me another one of her passions which is encouragement and public speaking. If you couldn’t already tell, Elise is very inspired by those around her, but she also loves to inspire others. Her encouragement does not always come from behind a lens. She is very open in her conversations and wants her audiences to think and challenge their own comfort zones. Her goal is to make her audiences think and inspire those around them. Use their beauty to challenge the norm. She hopes to start a YouTube channel where she will be able to share her words of encouragement with a larger audience. For now, she has taken to Instagram to Live Stream weekly to get her followers involved in the conversation. You can catch her Live Streams every Monday evening at 8:00 pm on her Instagram: @elise.michaux. If you wish to check out earlier motivational speeches from Elise, you can visit her website at: www.emichaux.com.
Encourager. Photographer. Inspirer. Elise Michaux is a force to be reckoned with. Check out some of her work below.