The CENTER Awards: Environmental Award Winner: Ella Morton
Congratulations to Ella Morton for her First Place win in the CENTER Environmental Award for her project, The Dissolving Landscape. The Choice Awards recognize outstanding photographers working in all processes and subject matter. Images can be singular or part of a series. Winners receive an opportunity to be part of the Winners Exhibition at El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe, complimentary participation in Review Santa Fe, and an Online exhibition at VisitCenter.org.
Juror Melissa Dale- The Nature Conservancy, Interim Director of Photography shares her insights:
Throughout my two decades of work with The Nature Conservancy, I’ve always sought fresh, creative, and compelling visual storytelling to inspire, inform, and motivate people to seek to understand the importance of our natural world and the challenges we all face in not only protecting but also, restoring it.
In this year’s CENTER Awards’ Environmental category, overall, there were many excellent and creative interpretations of “the state of the ecological environment.” In my review process, I often experienced the joy of discovery and gained an even deeper appreciation for the diverse visual explorations of our human relationship with the ecological world. Nonetheless, this year, the most compelling project is “The Dissolving Landscape.”
The artist’s statement says it all:
“The Dissolving Landscape is a series of experimental analog 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.”
As I was reviewing submissions, I came to this project and the obvious shift in tonal values surprised me. It made me stop and investigate what’s going on visually. Literally, I exclaimed, “wow, what is that process?” Mordançage is an ideal technique to illustrate the story of climate change and the slow warming process in the Arctic regions. These images evoke a sense of change. Some parts of the prints are literally missing. Removing silver from the prints is akin to the loss of ice from the Arctic regions. I imagine that seen in person, these prints with their incredible texture and detail would be even more impactful.
These images create a poetic interaction between artist, print, & viewer. The clear contrast in tonal values forces the viewer to hesitate and contemplate the meaning and purpose of the imagery. Ultimately, the viewer is led to receive the artist’s point of view & message from a unique and fresh perspective. All of this results in a fascinating new way of both projecting and interpreting our world, as well as the immediate challenges before it.
I love the mysteriousness, ambiguity, and dream-like quality of these images.
Refreshing and intriguing.
I want to see more!
Ella Morton is a Canadian visual artist and filmmaker living in Toronto. Her expedition-based practice has brought her to residencies and projects across Canada, as well as in Iceland, Denmark, Norway and Finland. She uses experimental analogue lens-based processes to capture the sublime and fragile qualities of remote landscapes. She earned a BFA from Parsons School of Design (New York, NY) in 2008 and an MFA from York University (Toronto, ON) in 2015. She has exhibited her work internationally, including shows at Hanstholm Art Space (North Jutland, Denmark), Walnut Contemporary (Toronto, ON), Foley Gallery (New York, NY), Contemporary Calgary (Calgary, AB), Galérie AVE (Montréal, QC), Idea Exchange (Cambridge, ON), Viewpoint Gallery (Halifax, NS), Photographic Center Northwest (Sea]le, WA) and the Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art (Kelowna, BC). Her photographs have been featured in Contact Photography Festival (Toronto, ON) and Exposure Photography Festival (Calgary, AB). Her films have been screened at the An0ma]er Media Art Festival (Victoria, BC), the Arc0c Film Festival (Svalbard, Norway), Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival (Hawick, Scotland), Peripheries Experimental Film and Video Festival (Boston, MA) and the Future of Film Showcase (Toronto, ON). You can find her on Instagram at @ellasharpmorton.
The Dissolving Landscape
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 mordançage is to capture the transcendent and fragile qualities of the landscape. The ways in which the images warp, melt and degrade highlight the spiritual power of the natural environment and also lament its destruction as the planet warms. Research has shown that the Arctic is warming at almost twice the global rate. Many of the communities I’ve visited in northern regions have been witnessing the effects of climate change for decades already. While global warming is now a common theme in news reportage and traditional documentary work, I believe that my altered images offer a new way for viewers to engage with this issue on a deeper level. Photography can help to communicate the depth of our connection with the land and the urgency of its accelerating deterioration. 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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