On Landscape: Issue 280
Image Credit: Chrystel Lebas. Between Dog and Wolf, Untitled 10.
Ellie Davies (Born 1976) lives in Dorset and works in the woods and forests of Southern England. She gained her MA in Photography from London College of Communication. Davies is represented by Crane Kalman Brighton Gallery in the UK, Dimmitt Contemporary Art in Houston Texas, Patricia Armocida Gallery in Milan, Susan Spiritus Gallery in California, Gilman Contemporary in Sun Valley Idaho, A.Galerie in Paris and Brucie Collections in Kyiv.
Choosing a single image for an end frame article has been an interesting process. I have been going back through a lifetime of images in my mind and in photobooks, thinking about pictures that have stayed with me over many years.
In the early days when I was first studying photography, my exploration of what has and could be done with the medium really caught fire. Looking back, I realize those early obsessions had a profound and formative influence on my own image making, although I wasn’t necessarily aware of it at the time.
One exhibition that particularly stands out was Twilight: Photography in the Magic Hour at the V & A in London in 2006.
Image credit: www.dandad.org
This exhibition, co-curated by Martin Barnes, drew together a number of established and emerging photographers, all working at dusk. The artists included Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Gregory Crewdson, Robert Adams and Bill Henson, as well as emerging talents Chrystel Lebas and Liang Yue. There was also a specially commissioned film installation by Ori Gersht.
The immersive staging of the exhibition lead the viewer into a dreamlike world. The walls were hung with sheer white fabric, which diffused the soft mauve and pink lighting, bathing everything in the atmosphere and stillness of twilight. This set the stage for a visual and psychological exploration of the effects of twilight. The large scale photographs suspended in front of these diaphanous wall coverings seemed to glow in the ethereal light that can only be found at dusk when the world shimmers for just a few minutes with the last traces of the setting sun; rich reds and oranges fade into purples and inky blues.
The image I have chosen for End Frame is from Chrystel Lebas’ snowy landscapes series Between Dog and Wolf, named Untitled 10, although my thoughts really refer to her series as a whole. The bleak wide-format landscape image shows a snow covered forest in the flat cold light of a winter afternoon. The title Between Dog and Wolf refers to the French expression entre chien et loup, which is used to describe the time of day when it is too dark to distinguish between a dog and a wolf. The blues of dusk cast a deep cold across the images so that it seems to seep into your bones. This is a landscape devoid of people, silent, hushed and completely still in the moment between day and night when shadows soften, the palette slowly desaturates, and the imagination takes flight.
The images are striking in their lightness of hand, allowing the viewer to project themselves into the scene, feeling the chill and the isolation as narratives form in the mind. All observers of photography bring their own experience to the viewing process, and these images leave space for multiple interpretations, but the titling gently nudges our imaginings.
THE TITLE BETWEEN DOG AND WOLF REFERS TO THE FRENCH EXPRESSION ENTRE CHIEN ET LOUP, WHICH IS USED TO DESCRIBE THE TIME OF DAY WHEN IT IS TOO DARK TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEN A DOG AND A WOLF.
This is a moment of transformation – it is as if humans may never have existed, and time stands still.
Whenever I view these images, the feelings return to me just the same. Moments of quiet and isolation can be rare in our busy lives, but these images bring a clarity and calm that I usually find only out in nature – they are transportive, and I feel I am about to begin a long solitary walk into the silent magic hour.
At the heart of the series is Lebas’ skill as a photographer and her ability to capture the subtle nuances of light and shade, texture and tone, that give each image its unique character and emotional resonance. The result is a body of work that is both visually stunning and emotionally affecting, a meditation on the transience of time and the power of the natural world to alter our perceptions of reality.
Ellie has just released her newest series, Chalk Streams. The series highlights the threats facing ecologically rare and precious chalk Streams, 85% of which are found in the south of the UK. These rare and delicate ecosystems are under threat from numerous stressors, including climate change, pollution from sewage overspill and farmland runoff, water abstraction, and the practice of stocking rivers with trout for sport fishing.
In this series, light reflected from the surface of the nearby sea is overlaid onto river landscapes, creating a sparkling ingress. This beguiling glimmer snakes its way upstream, but the peaceful waters and arcadian setting bely a darker narrative. The transposed light symbolises the coming consequences of climate change, water abstraction, pollution and rising sea levels as they insidiously impose themselves on these pristine landscapes. The series highlights the grave perils facing these important ecosystems and the critical need to protect them from the pressures humanity is placing upon them.’