The Collection

DECODE: The Empire Part 1

"The Empire Part 1"
It all ends where it  began... sort of. The Empire is the photograph that inspired this entire project.  There's so much to this photo; so much that went into creating it and so much that resulted from it.

This wasn't the first photograph I ever made, but it was the first that hit critical success and caught the attention of many people. It was kind of like my first hit song, if you want to compare it to music. When I created this shot my main purpose was just to create something that looked cool; something stylized and maybe even a bit gaudy. The ring you see in the picture is actually my high-school ring. A lot of the inspiration behind this shot was to create a photograph that said something about myself with the ring representing me. This was the photograph that taught me photography could be more than simple photos, that it could tell stories, communicate ideas, that it could really be something beautiful. 

I was freshly 18 when I created The Empire. It's safe to say I've matured a bit since then -- at least with my photography and what/where I want to be with it. The title "The Empire" refers to my career as a photographer. It's the manifestation of my dream(s) at the time; mostly a crazy pipe-dream of where I wanted to go with my photography. When I started out I wanted my work to propel to some kind of Warhol-like fame and I wanted to become rich from it. "The Empire" is what I would build with my work. I think of it now as childish naivete, but it's still beautiful to me. 

This photograph used to be just called "The Empire" but was later changed to "The Empire Part 1." I changed it because things change. That sounds silly and redundant but that's exactly what happened: I changed. My photography has allowed me to grow. It has changed the way I think, the way I see things, and really opened my mind to the world. I changed the title of the photograph because looking back I realize it no longer represents my vision as a photographer. I don't care about money and a very smart man once said "Fame is the worst drug known to man," so I couldn't careless about fame nowadays. Instead the focus of my work, my empire, has shifted to reaching as many lives as possible. I want to create stories that are compelling, inspiring, that make you think, or are just beautiful. 

I don't know if they're will ever be an Empire Part II. I like to think that that photograph is taking place right now. I'm in a new chapter of my life, perhaps when I enter the next I can create a second photograph. For now I'm still building my empire. Thank you for being a part of it. 

- James Elliott

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