Ellen Disaster :: Head On Photo Festival

May 10th 2012



Ellen Disaster (or as her mum might call her when she’s in trouble, Margaret Ellen Burns) has gazed into many rooms, faces and at a lot of beds. Her upcoming photographic exhibition 100 Bedrooms – a portrait project is pretty much what it sounds like. This intimate collection, on show at the Kind of Gallery and featuring in the Head On Photo Festival, is as idiosyncratic as the individuals Ellen Disaster captures on film. FBi convinced Margaret to put down the camera for a quick chat.

Zoe Ferguson: Your project ‘100 Bedrooms’ is ready to show – how long did it take you?
Margaret: The first portrait was taken in May 2011, so including the processing, editing and printing tasks, roughly a year.

Why 100 bedrooms? Why not 50? Or 10?
I actually started wanting to take 20, but found I couldn’t stop at 20 when I got there! So when I got to 20, I said ok… I’ll do 50 and when I finally got to 50 the momentum had built and I just decided to do 100… and I still don’t feel like I’m finished or have represented enough people in this 100. I’d love to take the project across Australia and overseas.

What inspired such a project?
Portraiture is something I’ve been obsessed with for a long time. Pictures of people are so important to me, especially when you no longer have that person in your life for one reason or another; the picture is like a little window into the past. The bedroom started off as a linking feature I guess, but I’ve made a lot of little discoveries about people and their dwellings and how they react to being photographed in such a personal space.


How did you find the people, or did they find you?
I started by contacting people I knew, then started asking strangers on the street, in bars (!!) and eventually people started contacting me when they heard about the project. I also used social media like facebook and instagram to get the message out.

What were some of the most quirky bedrooms that you saw?
All of the bedrooms have a little quirk to them, sometimes just because they aren’t what you expect when you see the image of a person walking down the street. The dark and mysterious looking man who sleeps in a whitewashed country style interior or the completely blank room of someone who spends a lot of time on body adornments, people sleeping in their cars for a period of their life, people sleeping on blow up mattresses. It’s all been really interesting!

How long have you been a photographer for? What is it about taking photos that you enjoy so much?
I wouldn’t call myself a photographer, per say. I’d probably call taking photographs my only addiction. It’s like some kind of obsession… wanting capture everything before it disappears…forever I guess.

What: Exhibition – 100 Bedrooms a portrait project
Who: Ellen Disaster AKA Margaret Burns
When: Opening Thursday 17th May, 2012 6pm. Runs until Sunday 27th May
Where: Kind of – periodical gallery, 118 Oxford Street Darlinghurst


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