Zach Ellis

Zach Ellis is a photographer whose work explores the human, natural and abstract. Through his artistic practice Zach is learning to pay better attention to what he is already paying attention to. His work is, at its essence, about the both/and, confronting and embracing conundrums and contradictions in the world and in himself. With a camera in hand all things become reflective surface, a mirror to the soul shining back what he hopes against hope to see more clearly. Zach was raised in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, has traveled the country since, and is now based in southern New Hampshire.

Zach’s work a featured in ‘Mediations,’ on view June 8-30, 2024.

Join us for an Artist Talk with Zach Ellis on Thursday, June 13 at 7:30pm est on Instagram Live at @see.saw.art_.

“For nearly a decade I found myself caught up in the clutches of active addiction. This experience started well before I started to photograph, and it was photography in many ways that helped bring me back into good health. This happened to some degree by accident, or at least without my knowing that image-making was reshaping how I saw the world, myself and others.

Along the way one question has continued to challenge and inform my work. “Why, in the midst of all this mess do I still find so many things to be desperately, profoundly beautiful?” This question has puzzled me deeply, both in the midst of addiction and as I slowly began to stumble out of it.

With camera in hand I have continued to ask this question, to myself and the world I encounter. While traversing the American landscape my work has brought me into places and spaces I never before dreamed of encountering. Projects with the United Nations, Smithsonian Institute and many others opened doors to further exploration, all the while a kind of desperation for answers only intensified. I ached for contentment, wholeness, resolution.

All of this eventually came to a head without warning or expectation. Suddenly, while camped out entirely alone in the middle of the rugged New Mexico desert, epiphany placed its hand on me. Yellow blossoms straining towards a beam of light amidst the unforgiving landscape, delicate life reaching for hope while threatened by encroaching darkness. The scene was simple enough, yet seemed utterly saturated with a transcendence that embraced and uplifted all at once. And then, just as suddenly as it had arrived, the feeling subsided, leaving behind a remnant to be carried on with curiosity and contemplation.

It is from this very moment that the series Hereafter was inspired, an ongoing project photographed over three life-altering years through which my artistic practice, and entire life, have been thoroughly transformed. I’ve come to see that desert experience as a moment in which the immanent and the transcendent came together, when heaven touched earth with resounding clarity. Perhaps this phenomena is always available to be experienced, yet it is the practice of photography which has trained my eye to encounter it more and more. In so many ways photography helps me to see things for what else they are; the undulations of a blossoming tree branch becoming a painter’s strokes, ice formations on the frigid surface of water pointing in the direction of peace, an all encompassing canopy of ancient oaks making wisdom itself incarnate.

Through image making I am beginning to make sense of what it is that I believe. Each image made over the years since that desert vision serve as a kind of reflective surface, a mirror in which I am able to see and know myself more deeply. In this sense the photographs I make open a window towards reality itself, a superabundance of the real barely contained within the image’s frame.

In bearing witness to beauty I am given opportunity to contend with the paradox of the both/and, that tension we feel as people filled with desire, caught up between the now and the yet-to-come. It is this tension with which I continue to wrestle through my image making, one which seems to hold ever increasing insight. This is the experience I aspire to share with my audience, one which might serve to breathe fresh life and hope into where confusion and doubt have taken hold. In the hereafter we are marvelously held between two worlds, all at once both lost and found, with awe and wonder in abundance.”

Zach Ellis

See Saw Art is a 120 square foot exhibition space located within Mosaic Art Collective at 66 Hanover Street, Suite 201, in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Owned and operated by Rochester Museum of Fine Arts co-founder, Amy Regan, See Saw Art features invitational and open call exhibitions on a monthly basis.

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