"There is a distinct eeriness looking at an image from David Ellingsen’s series, Life: As We’ve Known It - the dark glow suspending each subject is as compelling as it is unnatural. How will these photographs be viewed by our descendants and what will remain of these species, or indeed, their human viewers?

As our planet enters another major extinction period in it's 4.5 billion year history, now known as the "sixth extinction", these photographs respond to this anthropogenic event of unprecedented scale.

In the media barely a day now passes without a reminder. The World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London report the numbers of wild animals living on Earth today have fallen two-thirds from the levels of 1970 - two thirds in fifty years. The declaration from the International Program on the State of the Oceans that ‘marine species risk entering a phase of extinction unprecedented in human history' is but another in a long and growing list.

Ellingsen created this exhibition as a response to the ravages of human activity on the natural world. His solarized Polaroid negatives were produced in partnership with Vancouver's Beaty Biodiversity Museum and their curators and the series of 132 images emerged through seven years of research and practice. Even a casual walk through the museum’s collection reveals deep mixed feelings of preservation and loss; we are allowed such close intimacy with life forms we would rarely see in person, and yet, they are removed so profoundly from living nature. There is a play of darkness and light through the museum’s displays, and Ellingsen responds with his own aesthetic of strange beauty. The use of his last supply of Polaroid’s extirpated Type 55PN film itself reflects on the fragility of preservation; production of this distinct film ceased in 2009. We may not see many of these living entities for much longer and we certainly will not see such photographs.


Ellingsen honours the attentive manual care of earlier record-keeping technologies, drawing on the historical darkroom processes of Man Ray and the botanical studies of Karl Blossfeldt. The connection to Blossfeldt is particularly poignant; by isolating the subject from its background or natural surroundings both artists draw us deeply into the single life form itself. In Ellingsen’s case there is a new resonance: as life forms are being dislocated from their surroundings with or without an artist’s hand.

His portraits of flora and fauna are not intended as a concise, scientific record but rather a feeling, a fascination, a darkness - a lament for the living planet as we have known it. This rendering seems perhaps an accurate metaphor for our times."

- Pennylane Shen