On Environmental Photography
– ABOUT THE PROJECT
David Ellingsen’s cunning photographs combine his environmental concerns with conceptual narratives that visually consider where this fragile world is right now and how it got here. While beautifully composed, Ellingsen’s images are striking reminders of the complex relationship between the organic order of the world and humanity’s actions to unsettle, or destroy, that balance. David’s work is now drawing widespread attention – including museum exhibitions, international media and awards recognition – but it remains for him a humble daily challenge to witness and give voice to a world struggling to survive. Working on this article, it was fascinating to hear David talk about growing upon Cortes Island – a remote, resource-rich island that his family has been part of (and once logged) for many years. It’s a place he treasures and remains central to his art.
“In ‘The Last Stand’, Ellingsen’s quietly contemplative scenes of old growth tree stumps are all photographed on his family’s property on Cortes Island – in fact, many were logged by his ancestral family members. Ellingsen cuts a fine line here. The images are intended to question his own culpability in the globalized demand for natural resources that is stripping the earth bare and to present a challenge to viewers about our ecological priorities. But the work feels more elegiac than angry. Shrouded in frail light, these grave markers of natural history appear raw and haunting but also – in their still fecund manner – redemptive. Both our collective guilt and our potential salvation are on view here.”
– Barry Dumka
On Environmental Photography
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
– Henry David Thoreau, Walden Pond
In an era of radical environmental changes and challenges, artists can play a pivotal role to alert our senses and engage critical thinking about the state – and fate – of the planet at this perilous time. The expressive language of art can often prove more persuasive than factual statistics or media alarm. Artists such as Maya Lin, Joseph Beuys and Ed Burtynsky – among a varied collection of next generation standouts – are changing the terms for what constitutes a landscape artist while inflecting their scenes of the contemporary world with an activist’s agenda.
For Canadian environmental artist David Ellingsen – whose intimate connection with the natural world is rooted in his rural upbringing on a small remote island in the Pacific Northwest – there is a moral imperative as much as a conceptual vision that sparks his work. But his photographs – though cunning and prickly with social concerns – read more as a humanist prayer than political protest. Through the full range of his different photographic series, Ellingsen is documenting what we have, questioning what we are losing and purposefully involving himself in that dialogue between Man and Nature, consumerism and sustainability, life and death.
— (end of excerpt)
© Barry Dumka/BCREATIVE CONSULTING
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