Ella Morton: The Dissolving Landscape
Mordançage is a photographic darkroom process that combines the potential for destruction into spectacular, one-of-a-kind photographs. By lifting the shadow areas into veil-like formations, the photographer transcends the representative image creating a unique abstract representation of the subject. This week we will look at the works of five photographers, each of whom brings a unique take on this challenging and mesmerizing process.
There is a breathtaking immediacy to Ella Morton’s series The Dissolving Landscape. Land and sky shift dissolving before our eyes, creating a striking visual representation of the effects of climate change. Morton’s photographs of the Arctic and Subarctic, along with her images of Canada and Nordic Europe, depict a deep connection to these landscapes and the overwhelming loss of climate change. Her photographs remind us of the fragility of our environment and the constant destructive force inherent to a warming planet. Yet there is a poetic approach to creating these analog photographs in the darkroom, paralleling photography’s transition as a medium with climate change’s vast and unfortunate potential.
A selection of this series will be exhibited December 2nd, 2022 – January 28th, 2023 at Pictura Gallery, Bloomington, IN
Ella Morton (she/her) is a Canadian visual artist living in Tkarón:to/Toronto on the land of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishinabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenoshaunee and the Wendat peoples. Her expediton-based practice has brought her to residencies and projects across Canada, Scandinavia and Antarctica. Working primarily with lens-based media, she uses experimental analogue processes to capture the sublime and fragile qualities of remote landscapes.
She earned a BFA from Parsons School of Design (New York) and an MFA from York University (Toronto). She has exhibited her work internationally, including shows at Lonsdale Gallery (Toronto), Foley Gallery (New York), Contemporary Calgary (Calgary), Galérie AVE (Montréal), Idea Exchange (Cambridge), the Center for Fine Art Photography (Fort Collins, CO), Photographic Center Northwest (Seattle), the Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art (Kelowna) and Hanstholm Art Space (Denmark).
Her work has been featured in a variety of publications including the NPR Picture Show, Better Photography Magazine, Analog Forever Magazine, Lomography Magazine, the Toronto Star and the British Journal of Photography. Her practice has been supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, the British Columbia Arts Council, the National Film Board of Canada and the Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto.
The Dissolving Landscape is a series of experimental analogue photographs that examine climate change in the Arctic and Subarctic landscapes of Canada and Nordic Europe. The project asks the question: what are we losing, in terms of our spiritual connection to the land, as the climate rapidly changes? I consider myself a poetic activist, articulating the profundity of our relationship with the land, and the emotional complexity of its change and loss as global warming unfolds.
The images are treated in the darkroom with mordançage, a black and white process that degrades the shadow areas of silver gelatin prints, lifting the emulsion off the paper to create unique textures and veils. My goal in using this process is to capture the transcendent and fragile qualities of the landscape. The ways in which the images warp and melt highlight the spiritual power of the natural environment and also lament its destruction as the planet warms.
This work also addresses how the medium of photography itself is in transition. The proliferation of consumer photography through the emergence of smart phones and social media has challenged artists to use the medium in new ways. I aim to uncover how photographs can show more than a straightforward depiction of reality, and how the alchemy of analogue techniques can be reinvented in the digital age to tell deeper stories within images.
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