Ellen Blanchette has been an artist and photographer for over 40 years. Photography has become more than a source of creative expression for her. It has allowed her bring her artistic talents into combination with her professional work as a writer and reporter. For many years people told her she needed to focus on doing one thing but working in collaboration with others is what creative work is all about. And in her view, combining art, creative writing and love of music, theater and the arts is what makes for a full, rich life.
Ellen attended Overbrook High School in Philadelphia and then studied at Philadelphia College of Art (now the University of the Arts) in the early 1960s, where she studied with artists Karl Sherman and William Barnett. A back injury caused her to leave school before graduating. With new choices to make, she moved to New York City in 1966. Music had always been her first love and so the city called to her, with dreams of becoming a professional singer. She settled in Brooklyn, fell in love, married, and went back to college after the birth of her son Paul in 1970. Always keeping music in her life, but with her mother’s practical voice in her head, Ellen completed her education at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York, earning a BS in Art and an MFA in Creative Writing. She tutored students in English while a student at Kingsborough Community College, then worked as a substitute teacher in the Brooklyn public schools, and an administrative assistant in both corporate and non-profit businesses for 20 years before leaving New York City in 2002.
Ellen moved to Franklin County in Western Massachusetts seeking a quieter life and an opportunity to explore her creative side more fully. She became a reporter for the Athol Daily News in 2003, which introduced her to working as a reporter and news photographer. She has been writing for the Montague Reporter, a weekly non-profit local newspaper, published in Turners Falls, Massachusetts, since 2008.
While most of her time at the paper was spent covering the Gill-Montague Regional School district, attending school committee meetings for many years, at some point things changed. Once in a while, she would get to cover a school event. Her editor asked her to take some pictures of the high school musical which was in rehearsal at the time. A student who was a member of the cast was writing about his experience and editor David Detmold wanted photos to go with the article. And that was how it all started. The pictures were great but not only that, she loved the experience. Her love of theater made this an exciting experience and inspired her to do more. She started covering community theater, writing reviews for the paper, and taking photographs at dress rehearsal to go with the reviews. It turned out she was good at this. When Silverthorne Theater Company got started, with plays performed at Greenfield Community College Sloan Theater, she went to cover the show. The executive producer, Lucinda Kidder, wasn’t comfortable having her come to a dress rehearsal to take pictures but invited her to stay and take a few photos afterwards. A quick photo shoot of the cast of three, and the photo in the paper the next week convinced Kidder to let her come to the dress rehearsal and take pictures. This, she says, is a great honor, to be welcomed into the creative theatrical space and with her camera, document these gifted actors at work.