Photo of loggers and horse from the early 1900s imposed on picture of a modern clearcut

Falling Boundaries: A photographic art series by David Ellingsen

Originally published on March 8, 2022

David Ellingsen will be giving the residents of Cortes Island two presentations of his latest fine art photography series this year. 

“I’m going to be speaking at the Cortes Island Museum and Archives AGM on the 27th. It’s a fairly short talk, probably about 45 minutes, and then some time for Q and A. So it’s not  a huge amount of time. I’m going to be speaking a little bit about the ‘Falling Boundaries’ series. I also am planning on exhibiting this series, the actual prints, in the summer time,” he explained.

The exhibit will be at the Old Schoolhouse Gallery on the weekends of July 29 – 31 and August 5th-7th, 2022.

David Ellingsen – submitted photo

“Falling Boundaries” is an emotional response to the decline of British Columbia’s first growth forests. Ellingsen’s original inspiration for the series came from the stumps near his childhood home at Reef Point Farm on Cortes Island. The Cortes Island Museum gave him access to its’ ‘Von Donop Shed,’ allowing Ellingsen to take the old logging tools into the forest to be photographed.

The current project came into being after a biologist invited him to take ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures of an old growth forest, north of Campbell River, that was about to be cut. 

“It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to say with these images and that’s why I wanted to inject the historical,  archival photos into these to speak to a span of time here.  So then I worked with the Royal BC Museum here in Victoria, and almost all of the photographs are from Vancouver Island as well. I wanted to try and keep those close to the same area where I made my original photographs, and then installed those images into my original photographs. The result is as you see with the ‘Falling Boundaries’ series,” explained Ellingsen.  

Falling Boundary – Pigment ink on cotton rag (30×37.5 inches Ed. of 5; 20×25 inches Ed. of 7)
Undercut– Pigment ink on cotton rag (37.5×30 inches Ed. of 5; 25×20 inches Ed. of 7)

“I think most of us feel an incredible sense of loss just over the last couple of years, with the realization that we are down to less than 3% of the big tree old growth, as they call it.”

He described the recent logging protests at Fairy Creek as “an emotional response to the predicament that we find ourselves in.” 

“I was really interested in looking at this from the perspective of what has happened since the arrival of the colonists, the settlers. Which of course is exactly my family history, and so my story to tell because that’s the history of my family. We’ve been working in the forest, basically, since we got here.”

Bulls of the Wood – Pigment ink on cotton rag (30×45 inches Edition of 5;  20×30 inches Edition of 7) – All photos by David Ellingsen

Some of Ellingsen’s ancestors were among the first settlers to arrive on Cortes Island. The Michael Manson whose name persists in Mansons Landing was his great, great grandfather. Elmer and May (nee Freeman) Ellingsen were his grandparents. His parents are Bruce and Ginny Ellingsen. Andy and Sue Ellingsen are his uncle and aunt. Generations of the Ellingsen family were born on Cortes Island and remain there to this day. 

“I live in Victoria, but still consider Cortes my home base. I probably will my whole life just because of being born and raised down on Reef Point Farm on the south tip. It’s such an incredible place to grow up as a child and as a youth with the forest,” he said. 

Ellingsen was initially a commercial photographer in Vancouver, but in about 2009 realized it was not something he wanted to do. 

“I felt like I was a little bit part of the big machine of consumerism and trying to sell more things to more people that they didn’t really need. While we did some really fantastic projects, I decided to move into the arts,” he said. 

His first public exhibit combined a series of landscapes and seascapes (in the front end of the gallery) and “a big series of portraiture of Drag Queens” from Victoria in the back. 

Southern Resident Killer Whale, Orcinus orca – Pigment ink on cotton rag (30×45 inches, ed. of 7; 20×30 inches, ed. of 10)
Footsteps of Spring, Sanicula arctopoides – Pigment ink on cotton rag (40×60 inches, ed. of 5; 30×45 inches, ed. of 7; 20×30 inches, ed. of 10) Created as part of the HCMA AiR Program
Propertius Duskywing, Erynnis propertius – Pigment ink on cotton rag (30×45 inches, ed. of 7; 20×30 inches, ed. of 10) Created as part of the HCMA AiR Program

Ellingsen described pursuing photography as an art form as “a pretty lovely existence, as long as you are disciplined enough to make sure that you can continue to work.” 

That’s where his family tradition of hard work and discipline kicks in. 

“I definitely see the craft of photography is merely an extension of what I learned on Cortes and what my family has done for generations. I typically have around three or four projects on the go at any one time,” he said.

Over the years, Ellingsen has learned that the longer he works on projects, the better they get. 

“So I give all of my projects a little bit more room than I did at the start, when I felt a bit of an urgency to get projects out on a pretty regular basis,” he said.

2018 Wildfires, Descent to Dark No. 1 (2018) Edition of 5 Pigment ink on cotton rag 40×42 inches. On August 20, 2018, these 70 exposures illustrate the descent of the sun, at 30 second intervals beginning at 07:21:48 pm Pacific Daylight Time, as it shines through the heavy wildfire smoke.
018, August Wildfires Edition of 5 Pigment ink on cotton rag (40×50 or 20×25 inches) In this compilation, notice the yellow-grey smoke begin to creep in near the beginning of the month. In almost all of the days following there is some evidence of smoke (and these photographs are made in Victoria, BC, one of the areas furthest from the fires).
2018 Wildfires, 24 Hours (2018) Edition of 5 Pigment ink on cotton rag – 40×40 inchesThis image combines 2 photographs taken on consecutive days, August 22 and 23, as the smoke began clearing.

In the podcast, Ellingsen has more to say about his family, the state of BC’s forests, modern society, his art and other exhibitions. 

Links of Interest

Top image credit: Selective Memory – Pigment ink on cotton rag
(30×45 inches Edition of 5; 20×30 inches Edition of 7) – by David Ellingsen

Sign-up for Cortes Currents email-out:

To receive an emailed catalogue of articles on Cortes Currents, send a (blank) email to subscribe to your desired frequency: