Elicia Epstein on “Life of a Liveaboard”

Elicia Epstein | Issue 1

Elicia Epstein | Issue 1

In this photo essay “Life of a Liveaboard” (Issue 1), Elicia Epstein captures the daily surroundings of a family living in a sailboat off the coast of Maine. In this interview she discusses her work on Tracing the Pass, a documentary about the environmental effects of an energy infrastructure project.

Elicia Epstein is an aspiring journalist from Massachusetts. She studies Studio Art at Pomona College in California and has just finished a semester of photography at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Maine. She is currently a regular contributor to The American Guide.


What inspired you to create this piece? I was inspired to make this documentary because of the connection I feel to New England, the people who live there and the landscape that shapes our sense of place.

How would you characterize your creative process as you worked on this piece? (ex: fast and furious, slow brew, fits and starts) This project is the largest one I have ever undertaken, and also my first after graduating school. It has felt at times like a bit of a marathon. I’ve spent more time feeling completely overwhelmed than I think on any other project I’ve done. I worked pretty slowly and consistently throughout the process, just putting in hours. It’s sort of magic when things begin to come together in that way.

On the website for Tracing the Pass, there are two versions of the documentary: a 50-minute version and a 25-minute version. How did you decide what to cut out for the shorter version? What was most important to you to keep? It was really important to me that people who would only be watching the shorter version would get a complete story. Because the film is structured between multiple profiles and vignettes, the editing mostly equated to me having to let go of entire profiles. This was hard– at first the shorter version just felt like an eclipsed version of the full film. But after moving the order around, it started to feel like its own, separate piece.

What writing or other artistic expression has had a profound impact on your writing? Why? I consider myself a photographer before a filmmaker, so thinking about images photographically has always informed my video work. And when I am photographing, I am often thinking about elements of the photo sculpturally, though to a lesser extent when I am shooting video.

How do photographic projects like “Life of a Liveaboard” inform your film work, especially in how you approach trying to capture the character of a person or place? While shooting “Life of a Liveaboard” I spent 24 hours with a family on the boat they lived on in Portland, Maine. 24 hours is generally a strange, almost intrusive, amount of time to hang around people you don’t know. You see the way they sleep, how they eat, wake up, go to the bathroom– there’s a guard that drops. I think whether I am spending 24 hours with my subjects or not, I am most interested in those moments of vulnerability and authenticity, and that extends through my photographic and film practice.

Where do you create? Tell us about your workspace. After leaving school I no longer have any sort of consistent studio space, so my workspace has been really variable. It’s really wherever I can plug in my laptop and use wifi, though I try not to work at home.

Who has been influential in your writing/creative work? Why? Some of my favorite photographers are Daniel Shea, Bryan Schutmaat, Alec Soth, Joe Leavenworth and Nan Goldin. Each of them have different and distinct ways of approaching place and people. Another big influence for me has been the filmmaker and past professor of mine, Travis Wilkerson. I think there is a real slow pacing to his work that has stuck in my mind. Everything in stories now feels very urgent and immediate, so I find myself more interested in work that resists that.


We asked Elicia to dip into the “Proust Questionnaire” and select a few fun (less writing-related) questions to answer. This probing set of questions originated as a 19th-century parlor game popularized by contemporaries of Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that an individual’s answers reveal his or her true nature.

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? I think it would be nice to come back as some sort of tree.

What is your greatest extravagance? I have far more pairs of clogs than I actually need.

Which talent would you most like to have? Pulling the exact right amount of change out of my pocket.

Who is your hero of fiction? Kurt Vonnegut

What is your current state of mind? Kind of restless right now.




This interview was curated by Devon Halliday, Proximity‘s Interview Series Coordinator and a Comparative Literature student at Brown University.

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