"David Ellingsen’s photographs are self-portraits of a man intimately relating to his natural world. The vulnerability of the figure, and the subtly supernatural and mythic elements, illustrate humankind’s inviolable connection to the natural world; a connection that is obfuscated by modern values. Ellingsen’s work serves as a potent reminder of that connection at a time when anthropogenic devastation of the planet is a catastrophic threat. Where that loss of connection manifests as a sense of humankind’s dominion over nature, Ellingsen’s work acts as a solvent, unraveling the mantle of detachment by modeling his own transformational process."
Excerpt from exhibition statement for Unseated at Parker Projects
Solastalgia: the distress caused by environmental change
Solastalgia is a concept developed to give greater meaning and clarity to environmentally induced distress. As opposed to nostalgia--the melancholia or homesickness experienced by individuals when separated from a loved home--solastalgia is the distress that is produced by environmental change impacting on people while they are directly connected to their home environment.
Australas Psychiatry. 2007;15 Suppl 1:S95-8
Contextualized within humanity’s fraught relationship with the living planet, David Ellingsen’s trilogy Solastalgia reflects on emotional response to the anthropogenic destruction of the environments, natural systems and inhabitants of the planet and, ultimately, looks towards a redefinition of humanity’s relationship with them. These in-situ self-portraits return Ellingsen to his youth - a formative period at the edge of the wild.
Scaling his own body within expansive environments in Future Imperfect, Ellingsen endeavoured to make photographs where the land dominates and humans literally inhabit a smaller space in the natural world. The mimicking of herds, pods, flocks, etc., provides metaphoric reference of the planet’s other inhabitants while referencing themes of individual and communal. Ellingsen is interested in questioning the value contemporary culture places on the self: are there connections as we witness a simultaneous decline in the well being of the entire planetary community? From a distance the groupings in all three projects are not immediately obvious as one entity multiplied, but upon closer inspection this is revealed. Individual appears communal, but is in fact simply a multiplication, or intensification, of the self.
The photographs in Alone Together were made during a period of rising urgency as the window rapidly closes on humanity’s ability to mitigate extreme climate change. These images reflect emotional states in the search for answers to our dilemma.
The most recent collection, Absent Presence, focuses on human relationship with the other inhabitants of the earth as we witness the beginning of the ninth major mass extinction event in the planet’s 4.5 billion year history (the sixth since the Cambrian period, hence the more popular term ‘sixth extinction’). This event is historically unusual in its cause – the actions of a single species - thus equating humans with the cataclysm of volcanic eruption or asteroid strike. As the evaporation of life intensifies, it is the conscious awareness of absence, and the grieving that rightfully follows, that can lead to new motivations in the battle for species’ survival, including our own.