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Senior displays photographs of unsuspecting subjects

A couple kissing as the world whizzes around them, a child sitting on a step, a woman walking with music in her ears. Street photography by Brent Ellis.

Ellis, a senior graphic design major at John Brown University, did not mean to get into street photography. He had to do it during a trip to Florence, Italy with the art department.

“I was scared to death,” Ellis said. “Obviously, people don’t care too much for strangers to take their picture, but the Florence people looked very interesting, and I thought shooting them could be fun!”

Ellis said he ended up shooting so often that the group’s leader acted worried.

“Mr. Peer said, jokingly… I think, that he was afraid we were going to get chased down by the Italian mafia because of me,” the prolific photographer said.

Most of Ellis’ works are in black and white. He likes to keep them that way to remove the distractions so that the viewer can focus on the picture.

“I love the subjects for their stories,” Ellis said. “What are they doing? Where are they going?”

Ellis’ favorite piece is a woman (in color) hiding behind her glasses. She’s mysterious and beautiful and inviting to the imagination.

Ellis said he chose to do a senior photography project instead of a graphic design project.

“You just don’t see a whole lot of brochures tacked to walls, but you do see photographs,” he explained. “I figured I’d rather go with that.”

One of the hazards of street photography is angry subjects, but Ellis said he really only had one of these run-ins.

He was in Switzerland and could not resist shooting a man with a particularly terribly haircut. When the man noticed the camera, he began to yell at Ellis in French. Ellis’ cover-up? The photographer noticed a couple of dogs nearby.

“I’m taking pictures of the dogs!” Ellis told the man, taking a few to prove his point.

“The man was cool with it… then I took a few more of him,” he added.

Ellis said he is the opposite of those who say photographers should always ask before taking pictures.

“I never ask permission,” he said. “If you do, and they know you are shooting them, it will completely change the photo.”

Ellis’ exhibit is bringing in both on-campus students and students from across the big road at the University of Arkansas.

Best friends Madeline Williams and Erica Leeman, both seniors at the University of Arkansas, attended the candid captured exhibit.

“We like this type of photography because it feels more real than posed photography, and it just feels so much more intimate in the black and white,” Williams said.

John Brown University junior Morgan Henson said she also enjoyed the gallery.

“He really captures the essence of daily life, making normal activities seem meaningful,” she said.

Ellis’ genuine interest in his subjects is evident in every single one of his frames.

“Street photography isn’t always perfect, and it’s not clean, but it’s fantastic to me,” he said.