tPE member Ellen Butler has exhibition at Utopia in Long Beach

Photo copyright by Ellen Butler.
Photo copyright by Ellen Butler.
Photo copyright by Ellen Butler.

Long time Photo Exchange member Ellen Butler is presenting photography from her current project in the show “Zen and Now” at Utopia in Long Beach, CA. I asked Ellen to tell me about her work. Her response is printed below.

My background in sociology has influenced much of my photography over the years, but this particular body of work derives from my interest in Buddhism and the fact that it really is always the present moment, no more, no less.  The past is gone, the future’s not yet arrived . . . we are here now.


While that is true, we frequently don’t live as if it were, but rather escape in our heads to the past or future.  The images in this body of work would not exist if I hadn’t been fully in the present moment; I’d never have noticed the delightful shapes, textures, colors or patterns.  Once I started the series, I was compelled to look more carefully and see more fully whatever was right before my eyes.  Photographing these images is not meditation, but it is wonderful Buddhist inspired practice.


Some of the images are taken from existing work by other artists: Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate, James Turrell’s Skyscape, Frank Gehry’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago . . . even a custom car in a car show.  Some are the floor of the Broad Gallery at Santa Monica City College when an excellent exhibition of work by indigenous Australians was on the walls, and one is my own garage floor, spied when a wet bucket was lifted.  A couple are an alley driveway, first seen when walking home from a run; that was such a wonderful find I returned to photograph it more than once.  One is my car, discovered while shooting documentary photographs for insurance purposes following an accident.


The point is, had I not been in present time, fully aware and really looking, I’d never have found these treasures.  My hope is that in looking at them, others will learn to look more carefully, too, and learn to be more fully here . . . now.

Artist reception: January 25 from 4:00-6:00 pm

Exhibition dates: January 16 through March 8

Utopia is located at 445 E. First St, Long Beach, CA

Phone: 562.432.6888

By Jim McKinniss

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