Q&A: Tealia Ellis Ritter — The Model Family


Have you recently been living by any life philosophy? I wish I could say that the pandemic generated some zen calm for me where I refocused myself on what really matters but that would be a lie…my recent life philosophy has been more along the lines of “don’t panic” while trying to school two young children and maintain a career as a working artist during coronavirus. What will baffle future generations about our day and age? Hopefully, our culture’s obsession with social media and likes from strangers will be baffling. But please keep liking my photos because it makes me feel good. I also think our lack of action on climate change will be dumbfounding to future generations. Are you aware of any conspiracies? I am aware of too many conspiracy theories these days…unfortunately. I am into the idea of aliens though. What is it that interests you about photography? Everything. If I set aside my love for the materiality of photography…I mean creating an image with light is pretty incredible, then the line that photography uniquely walks between truth and fiction interests me the most. Don’t we all walk that line everyday? Photography makes that battle material. What is the worst thing about city life? I loved living in Chicago for a number of years but now I live in the countryside on the East Coast. NYC still feels like brief snippets of magic to me when I’m there. What part of the planet would you like to explore? I would really like to explore Iceland when we’re able to travel again. I love rocks and think it would be amazing to stand next to the basalt columns. Oh, and it would blow my mind to go into the Crystal cave in Mexico but I don’t think that’s an option for tourists, unfortunately. What do you think is the most plausible of the supernatural? Ghosts and life after death.

If you had to align yourself with a leader in history, who would it be? I have a difficult time with joining groups that have leaders. I want to figure things out myself and chart my own course but the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950-60s is the movement I would have most wanted to be a part of. Pick a field of science to be an expert within. I would be an astrophysicist. What moment have you most wished you’d had a camera when you hadn’t? I wish I had had a camera with me when my father died. I would have liked to take his picture, though it would have been difficult for me to do at the time and painful to look at now. The image of his body is fixed in my mind, it’s just so hard to know if it’s accurate anymore. Choose a job you would be willing to do for free on the side. Therapist. I basically do that for free everyday with my own children, so I think I would be good at it. Describe the most important photo you’ve seen. There have been so many important photos over the years, so I really can’t name just one. I think the slideshows my dad used to share with us, of the photos he took of our family, were the most influential and important photos to me in my life. How often do you take other people’s advice? I take my kids’ advice routinely. Describe a personal hell. Being trapped. Which living person do you most admire? My grandfather. He helped design the Hubble telescope and is one of my favorite people to chat with, funny, kind, and smart as hell. On what occasion do you lie? I lie when I don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings and the difference between the truth and a lie is negligible.

What was the last crime you witnessed? I witness crimes on TV daily. The most personally impactful crime I witnessed recently was the death of George Floyd. What is the best way to educate yourself? Reading and actually going out and experiencing life first hand. What is the next book you want to read? Honestly, whatever book my friend Lisa Taddeo writes next because I love her. She is the best combination of smart and hilarious. Ultimate camera? Whatever works in the given situation. Most used camera? Mamiya 7ii. What object do you want? An Ellsworth Kelly painting or a sculpture by Noguchi. What object do you need? A comfortable sofa. How would you explain the internet to someone from the 1950s? Like all the worst parts of high school combined with the greatest library known to man, plus shopping. Are you satisfied with your level of physical strength? Haha, yes. Describe a cheap thrill. Singing loudly and dancing like a lunatic in the darkroom. Pick a historic moment from the last hundred years to bring a camera to. I’m more interested in personal moments than historical moments photographically. I would have been moved to want to explore visually hidden moments at women’s marches during the ’60s or integration of the public schools in the ’50s, had I been alive at the time. The children who had to walk into school, past angry shouting protestors, displayed the most courage I think I have ever seen and at such a fragile time during their physical and emotional development. Such a heartbreaking contrast between heroism and vile behavior. Are impulses more important than consequences? No, consequences are more important. Which talent would you most like to have? I would love to be a good singer. What is your plan for the next 24 hours? Hopefully sleep.

Tealia Ellis Ritter (b.Illinois, 1978) lives and works in rural Connecticut. Ellis Ritter’s work contends with the intersecting roles of the photograph as personal document, familial marker of time and object with physical surface. Her interests lie in exploring, in both a physical and emotional sense, the act of looking and being looked at in return, coupled with the desire to understand the changing nature of intimacy over time. She is presently engaged in a long term project documenting family members in both a representational and abstract manner, with a focus on the physicality and vulnerability of the human body .

Her work has been exhibited internationally, most recently by Aperture, The Magenta Foundation, Taschen NYC, Double V Gallery, France, and the Swab Art Fair Barcelona. Her work has also appeared in many publications, including The New Yorker, Youthies Magazine, JRNL 2 published by Fotofilmic guest edited by Stanley Barker, The London Daily Telegraph, Mouvement Magazine, France, Stella Magazine, Bloomberg Pursuits Magazine, Paper Journal, Ain’t Bad, Musee Magazine, C 41, FotoRoom and The Financial Times of London.

To see more of Tealia Ellis Ritter’s work visit — Website / Instagram.