David Ellingsen at Winchester Galleries, July 09, 2019. Interview by Anahita Ranjbar
- Please tell us about your background and how you found photography as a profession?
Born and raised on Cortes Island, I moved to Victoria and stayed there through my 20s. I started photography seriously at age 30 after moving to Vancouver and, once I realized I needed a sounding board for my next step in life, visited a career counsellor. As soon as they mentioned photography, I knew that was it, and off I went to school.
- You engage the audience with deep concepts in your installations and throughout the series; would you please explain how you have developed these concepts?
They all stem from the rising tide of climate-related reports. Essentially, I attempt to translate the ever-increasing avalanche of data that scientists provide and filter it through into photographs. Most concepts take a few years to fully mature, often the longer the better.
- I think everyone gets their first inspirations from someone or somewhere special to them, would you please tell us about your biggest influences? And where do you find your inspiration?
My work is inspired by the land, this land, here in BC. Early in my life and career, as with many artists, I was simply inspired by its beauty. Later, as I matured, I was galvanized by its on-going destruction and the desire to contribute to its conservation. While life will go on in some form, it is no exaggeration to say that on this planet much of it now hangs in the balance.
- Developing a career in photography is challenging, what were the advantages and disadvantages of choosing photography as a profession and how you developed it?
I started my career in the waning days of film. Watching the digital revolution occur was certainly interesting as the technical barriers to entry fell and the field was flooded with eager new photographers who had a whole new set of tools to create images with. Eventually, it has settled, and the concept or idea has once again taken rightful precedence over the technical.
I suspect my career has developed much as any other. Many, many hours, lots of hard work and trying to be prepared as possible when I happen to be in the right place at the right time.
- You shoot your subjects and installations mostly in the B.C. region; in a broader (Canadian/global) framework, where do you see your artwork?
I am intentionally a place-based artist in my process, but the ideas within my photographs speak to issues - such as deforestation, biodiversity loss, and climate extremes - that are reverberating globally and are contextualized within this broader framework.
- Pricing photography is very difficult, how do you price your work?
I use a price-per-square-inch method. At the beginning one evaluates the marketplace and researches the pricing of artists at a similar point in their career, arriving at an average PPSI which I applied to my own work. Prices are increased through the years as work sells and career milestones – exhibitions, residencies, press, and other achievements – increase the depth of one’s work.
- Where do you see the future of your art? What are your long-term goals in your career?
I expect my work to continue within its current framework from a conceptual standpoint, concerning the environmental predicament we find ourselves in. There is sadly certainly enough to draw from. Process-wise, while I am firmly committed to still photography, I am a restless artist and expect my work to evolve as the medium itself does. My end-goal remains the same – the hope that my photographs make some contribution towards mitigating the worst of the climate disaster the planet now faces.