Photographer Will Elsom remembers coming across Greg Girard’s book Phantom Shanghai and being entirely consumed by the atmosphere in the pictures. “There’s something quite special in being able to communicate a feeling, even if it is interpreted differently, in something as static and literal as a photograph,” he tells It’s Nice That. “It’s really exciting when you begin to put images together you instantly create a narrative, it could be one that’s completely fabricated, but inevitably the viewer will try to make a connection between the images and an idea begins to unfold.”
Today, working as an editorial and commercial photographer in Oxford, Will strives to do the same in his own work, particularly in his personal projects. Through documentary-led work, he explores the human experience, our relationship with our environment and how that shapes our lives. “I think there’s a romanticism around people that live very close to the land within our planets wilder places and I’m always interested to explore the reasons behind that,” he adds.
These themes are prevalent in Will’s most recent work, titled Kingdom of Lo, a series which documents the Upper Mustang area of Nepal. Will had originally passed by the edges of the restricted entry point to this area a few years previously and, naturally, had his interest piqued by “the vast riverbed that ran up the valley and by its restricted nature (up until 1992 the area remained a demilitarised zone, it is still considered sensitive so permits must be sought to enter).” After much research on the area, he found out that a road was currently being constructed through this valley, a monumental change which would inevitably alter the lives of those in Upper Mustang.
Will was able to return to Upper Mustang in 2018, and spent ten days exploring the area on foot, “which is one of my favourite ways to travel,” he tells us.