ella dreyfus

13th January 2015
Ella Dreyfus Artist
Ella Dreyfus photographic work engages with representations of identity. She endeavors to find ways to depict and empower those who do not conform to the dominant aesthetic standards. Hovering between fine art and documentary photography, her images embrace the ordinary, striking a rich source of humanity, compassion and emotional resonance.

Dreyfus' black and white photographs are an exploration of the human body when its condition appears to threaten the social order. At certain times of life and in certain conditions, the tenuous nature of the relationship between the body and its borders and boundaries are disturbed. A person's response to their changing physical condition may challenge their self-perception, identity and sense of mortality.

The subjects of these photographs can be seen as abject in their inability to be symbolically contained - their physicality spills out and disturbs conventional codes of normality. The subjects have included people who are pregnant (Pregnancy Series, 1992, The Body Pregnant, 1993) fat (Fat and Ugly: written on my body, 1995), circumcised (ReMember, 1996, Covenant, 1997), scarred, aged and ill (Age and Consent, 19990, transgendered (Transman, 2001, the young male (Under Twelves, 2005) and young man (Under Twleve, Under Twenty).

Although many of these physical conditions are common experiences, they have all suffered from a lack of visual representation. When such images are encountered they are often presented as either the objects of medical scrutiny, the butt of humour, or the focus of pity or ridicule. Dreyfus' images show respect towards and bestow dignity upon her naked subjects, all of whom consented to her work. The unseen, loss of visibility, acceptability and identity are issues that have been central to Dreyfus' work.

Her first interactive public sculpture Weight and Sea (Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi, 2005) was an outdoor performative piece which revealed a very private act in a very public place, the beach, bringing viewers into a particpatory role that involved the numerical display of their body weight. This artwork continued Dreyfus's challenging work about identity and body image. It was the first work in her Phd thesis to be exhibited.

In 2008 she exhibited Scumbag (Stills Gallery, Sydney), the second of a trilogy of art works made for a doctoral degree. This exhibition signaled a major shift in focus from over twenty years of photographing the human body towards an exploration of language and text based works, the hand-made, installation art, humour and emotion. Following Weight and Sea, these artworks suggest traces and memories of the human body and relationships between people, rather than visualizing them directly.

To see beyond what seems to be (Articulate, Sydney 2011) is an exhibition of prints on paper which reflect upon the way language shifts through space and transcends meaning. This series take an unexpected turn towards muted colours, tones and abstraction via an unusual combination of the hand-made object and digital technologies.

In recent years Dreyfus' artwork has shifted from representational and photographic forms to the performative, interactive and reflective, where the complex relationsips between the private/public and the physical/emotional relams are revealed, creating new possiblilites for visually embodied experiences.



Ella was awarded an Artist-in-Residency at the Banff Centre Canada for the Banff Research in Culture Program "Distributed Intimacies". At Banff she created a new body of work "Intimate Distance" which was exhibited in the Knoll Gallery at the Banff Centre.

Ella was a selected finalist in the inaugural Grace Cossington Smith Art Award at the GCS Gallery, Abbotsleigh School in Sydney.

Ella gave a number of conference presentations about her work in Paris with the paper "Je ma'appelle Dreyfus, je suis juive: Sites/Sights of Trauma, Autobiography, Photography and Representation" at the Deakin University conference "The Future of the Past: Representing the Holocaust, Genocide and Mass Trauma in the 21st Century. This paper was also delivered at Sydney University and the National Art School.

She exhibited in a number of group exhibitions in Sydney throughout the year.


In 2013 Ella was awarded an Artist-in-Residency at the Cite International des Artes, Paris. She created a new body of work "Je m'appelle Dreyfus, je suis juive" which she is forming into a new exhibition incorporating performance, photography and objects.

Selected works from her "Transman" series were exhibited in Paris, in the major exhibition "Cheveux Cheris - Frivolites et Trophee" at the Musee du quai Branly.

A photographic work was selected and purchased for teh Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Photography Award at the Gold Coast City Art Gallery in Queensland.

Ella delivered the paper "Voyeurs of Shame" at the Interdisciplinary Net Conference "Body Horror" in Sydney.

She also delivered an Artist's Forum Lecture "Eat, Weigh, Art" at the National Art School.


"Under Twelve Under Twenty" is a new series of male portraits, exhibited at Stills Gallery, Sydney from 29 August to 29 September, 2012. Revisiting the "Under Twelves" series of 2005, Ella is photographing the young men again as they finish school and enter the adult world.

"I forgive you every day", a solo exhibition of photograhs and installations will be exhibited at the University Gallery, University of Newcastle 3-20 Ocotber, 2012. This will be the final exhibition for a doctoral degree in Fine Arts at the University of NSW.

"Self Portrait in Red" is exhibited in a group photography exhibition "Kitsch and Cliche" at NG Gallery, Sydney, curated by Sandy Edwards.

The double portrait "The Indivisible Partners" is a selected finalist in the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Photographic Award at the Gold Coast City Art Gallery. This work is also purchased for their collection.

"Blue Chip Tenant", a photographic dyptich, is exhibited in "Artwords and Artworks" a group exhibition of artists/lecturers at the National Art School, curated by Joe Frost.

Ella is selected for the Blake Prize Touring exhibition which travels to Queensland, NSW, Victoria and Tasmania in 2012.


"Blue Chip Tenant", a photographic dyptich is exhibited in the group show "Articulate Turns One" at Articulate Project Space.

"To see beyond what seems to be", the third and final exhibition in the trilogy of artworks made for a PhD degree and exhibited at Articulate Project Space in Leichhardt, Sydney.

Ella is a finalist in the Blake Prize for Religous Art with a work from "To see beyond what seems to be" and opens at the National Art School Gallery in Darlinghurst, Sydney.

Mamazina Magazine from New York published the photograph "Portrait of Isabella" in the Spring/Summer issue.

The portrait "Inga Hunter, Artist" was selected as a finalist in the Olive Cotton Award for Photographic Portraiture at the Tweed River Art Gallery.

A portrait photograph was selected for the Head On Portrait Prize Slide Show at the Australian Center for Photography.


"The end of the bloody reds", an art installation made of Ella's collection of red found objects was exhibited at The Red Rattler Theatre in Marrickville, Sydney.

Ella visited New York City to speak at the annual Mamapalooza Conference. She gave two conference presentations "Presence, Absence and Silence" and a slide show of her photographic history.

Mamazina Magazine from New York publish a photograph from "The Body Pregnant" in the Fall/Winter issue.

"Child photographer or child pornographer" was a session of the Head On Photo Festival Seminar at the National Art School. The session was convened by Dreyfus with a presentation about her series on young boys "Under Twelves".

Dr Maree Stenglin and Ella gave a joint presentation at the International Conference on Multi-Modality at the University of Technology, Sydney. The paper was titled "Behind Closed Doors, giving space to the world of silence.

Dr Jacqueline Millner published a chapter on the exhibition "Age and Consent" in the book "Conceptual Beauty", published by Artspace, Sydney

Ella's photography cited in Anne Marsh's book "Look: Australian Contemporary Photograhy since 1980", published by Macmillan


Selected works from "Transman" were invited to be exhibited in the annual Trans-lives exhibition at the University of Montana in Missoula Montana. Transman was also featured on the website "On the Issues", a feminist magazine published in New York.

Sydney University linguist Dr Maree Stenglin wrote about "Scumbag" in her chapter "Space and communication in the museum: exploring the nexus" in "The Routledge Handbook of Multimodal Analysis"

Ella gave an international conference presentation "Punishing Silence" at the Interdisiplinary.Net conference "Violence and the contexts of hostility" in Budapest, Hungary.


"Scumbag", a major solo exhibition was a photographic and fabric installation, exhibited at Stills Gallery in April 2008. It was the second work in her PhD thesis at the University of NSW, to be exhibited.

A selection of the "Scumbag" photographs were short listed as a finalist in the William and Winifred Bowness Photography Prize at Monash Gallery of Art.


"Under Twelves No 5" was a finalist in the 2007 Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Photography Award at the Gold Coast City Art Gallery.

"JP and Jacqueline's Girl" was a finalist in the 2007 Olive Cotton Award for Photographic Portraiture at the Tweed River Art Gallery in Murwillumbah.


"David Moses" was awarded a commendation in the 2006 Olive Cotton Award for Photographic Portraiture at the Tweed River Art Gallery in Murwillumbah.

"Scumbag No 2" was a finalist in the 2006 Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Photography Award at the Gold Coast City Art Gallery.

"Laura's Boy" was a finalist in the 2006 Head On Alternative Portrait Award at the Australian Photographer's Gallery in Sydney.


"The Lads: Nadz and Dax" was the WINNER of the 2005 inaugual Olive Cotton Award for Photographic Portraiture at the Tweed River Art Gallery in Murwillumbah.

"Weight and Sea" was exhibited in the 2005 Sculpture by the Sea exhibition at Tamarama Beach, Sydney.