Elizabeth Ellenwood is a photographer and diver whose work combines historical photographic techniques with the most pressing contemporary issues of environmentalism. Fading Reefs documents global warming’s impact on coral reefs via anthotypes. In this early photographic process, paper is infused with plant-based pigments. Sunlight bleaches the exposed areas, thereby creating an image of whatever light-permeable object has been placed on it during exposure. In this case, Ellenwood uses photographic negatives of coral reefs that are themselves being bleached by a long and slow process. Because any exposure to light causes these unfixed images to fade, for Lands End they are shrouded in black velvet—a nod to the traditional mode of Victorian era exhibition. Fading Reefs is more than a technical demonstration, however: it is meant to be experienced as a consciousness-raising memorial for the lost environments of climate change.
Fading Reefs, 2021; anthotypes made with plant pigments from the family garden; courtesy of the artist
Elizabeth Ellenwood uses photography to illuminate critical environmental issues. She earned a BFA from the New Hampshire Institute of Art and an MFA from the University of Connecticut. In 2021, she received a US Fulbright Student Research Grant and an American Scandinavian Grant to collaborate with scientists studying plastic pollution in Norway.