The Last Stand

David Ellingsen


David Ellingsen


David Ellingsen is a photographer and environmental artist, who creates images of site-specific installations, landscapes and object studies. The Last Stand images speak to humanity’s impact on the natural world, and are motivated by the challenges of sustainability within contemporary Western culture. Since 2001, David has exhibited his work in  commercial and public galleries in Canada, the USA, Asia, and Europe. His photographs are held in the permanent collections of the Chinese Museum of Photography, the Dana Farber Cancer Centre at Harvard University, and the Beaty Biodiversity Museum. His work was shortlisted for Photolucida’s Critical Mass Book Award, awarded First Place at the Prix de la Photographie Paris, and First Place at the International Photography Awards in Los Angeles. David also works in commercial photography and has appeared at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, in Men’s Health, People, Marie Claire, and the New York Times magazines. Originally from Cortes Island, a remote community of 800 residents in Canada’s Pacific Northwest, David was raised on a small family farm surrounded by forest and ocean. His photography is rooted in this rural upbringing, which emphasized the importance of pairing quality with practicality, people with environment, and community with the individual.

Artist Statement

As a youngster on Cortes Island, I walked through the woods to catch the school bus, passing by remnants of the old growth forest. These giant looming stumps, peering through the second growth trees, seemed an ominous presence and they remain so. Five generations of my family have been part of the forest industry in British Columbia, from falling old growth trees and clear cutting, to local sustainable harvest initiatives. My great grandfather, George Freeman, and great uncle, Wilf Freeman, fell many of the actual trees whose remnants you now see in these photographs below. In this familial context, filtered through the contemporary environmental crisis and thoughts of my own responsibility, the seeds of this series were sown. As this project began, these iconic remains of the old forest first served as a meditation on the human-altered landscape, but soon evolved into a metaphor for the natural world that supports me, the contemporary globalized culture I play an active part in, and their apparent incompatibility. The cognitive dissonance arising from this dilemma of participation in, yet responsibility for, the fouling of one’s own nest became a dominant theme guiding the creation of these photographs. This discomfort resulting from holding two conflicting beliefs or ideals, and perhaps more importantly where it leads one, remains a key motivator in my work. Although the pattern of progress and disaster has been repeated throughout human history, the urgency I now feel in our globalized world is one of  vast scale, perhaps nearing a point of no return. No doubt evolution progresses as it should, which brings some measure of comfort, yet I cannot help but feel apprehension for the life my family will lead in the not-too-distant future.

 Slideshow: The Last Stand

Click on any image, fullscreen and play. Or scroll through, image by image, and meditate on what was and is.

Review by Richard Trueman