CanCulture: Can you tell us how this project got started and what inspired you to do it?

David Ellingsen: Most of my personal exhibition work these days is about the declining environment. Being born and raised on Cortes Island in the Pacific Northwest, I come from a background of close association with, and sensitivity to, the rural environment. My photographs are a personal attempt to come to terms with the overwhelming environmental degradation we are witnessing. I’m intrigued about human nature and how we choose to continue on a path to a very difficult future when we are wise enough to do otherwise.

CC: What message(s) are you trying to convey about technology and the environment?

DE: This series is about the speed of technological obsolescence, the environment, and the collision of the two.
Since starting out with film and the 4×5 view camera in 2000, my photographic career has seen amazing advances in the “tools of the trade,” resulting in a lot of outdated technology in a short amount of time. I think of the first Hasselblad camera I bought. It was 30 years old and was ready for me to use it for many more. Now you’re lucky to get 3 or 4 years from one camera, if that. I see this mirrored strongly in the communications and entertainment industries, which most everyone can relate to, and that is why Part 1 of this work began there.

CC: Can you describe the process behind creating these photos?

DE: For a few I worked with a prop stylist but most I did on my own on, or near, our family’s farm on Cortes Island – an environment I know well. The items were placed in the environments, as you see them in the photographs. Outside of that I prefer to let people contemplate the image itself, rather than be distracted by unnecessary information such as what lens is used, what the exposure was, etc. Unless the technological process is of key importance to the work, let’s talk about the ideas and narrative in the photographs we see.

CC: Where did you find the items — records, cassette players, typewriters that are included in your photos?

DE: The items came from prop houses, thrift stores, my personal collection and connections…and my parents’ basement. I’m already working on Part 2 of this series and asking myself exactly that. I have a plethora of items to choose from.


David Ellingsen is an award-winning photographer originally from Cortes Island, BC. His clients include the New York Times Magazine and the CBC. His previous work is a part of the permanent collection at the Dana-Farber Cancer Center at Harvard University.