Buck Ellison Interview: Images of the Middle Class


Meet a rising artist to watch: American photographer Buck Ellison, whose staged photographs depict seemingly mundane moments in the life of upper-middle-class white people in America.

The young photographer, who has been described as “one of the strongest voices out there to represent American whiteness and its contradictions in the age of Trump,” is drawn to photographs where it seems he can “cut through to something rather than add more to it.” Historically, Ellison argues, photography has been associated with an idea of depicting the working class: “So for me, it was exciting to turn that on to a group of people who really didn’t seem like they wanted to be depicted at all.” He finds that though we have more social and economic stratifications than ever before, the media continue to show what he describes as “the false middle class,” which portrays a standard of living, which is unattainable for most people.

Ellison stages his photographs, using models in order to avoid “pointing a finger at any actual individuals,” and picks out everything from clothing to props to the setting: “It also lets me show a moment that we wouldn’t otherwise see.” Moreover, he emphasizes that he isn’t interested in making judgements, but simply wants to describe things as accurately as possible, his main interest being in “the push and pull between the lightness of the image and the heaviness of the history or the social dynamics that are at play underneath.”

Buck Ellison (b.1987) is an American photographer. His photographs offer a vision of health- and wealth-conscious upper-middle-class white people in America, keeping a critical distance from his subject. Ellison has exhibited internationally, including at Kunsthalle Wien in Vienna, Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt, Index – The Swedish Contemporary Art Foundation in Stockholm, Soho Factory in Warsaw and Night Club Gallery in Chicago. He lives and works in Los Angeles. For more see: http://www.buckellison.com/

Buck Ellison was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner at his studio in Los Angeles in December 2018.

Camera: Rasmus Quistgaard

Edited by: Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen

Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner

Cover photo: Cropped version of ‘Untitled (Christmas Card)’, 2017 by Buck Ellison

Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2019

Supported by Nordea-fonden

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