Buck Ellison’s staged images examine whiteness and inequality in America

The LA-based creative investigates the language of wealth through meticulously researched images, often executed through staged settings and performative interventions into the visual language of photography.

Date
21 November 2018
Reading Time
1 minute read

On the surface, many of Buck Ellison’s images appear to reproduce the habits and tastes of comfortable, white, upper-middle-class families: organic vegetables, wellness therapies, performance sportswear, lacrosse & rowing, family Christmas-card portraits. However, lurking beneath this is a deep network of enquiry into how whiteness and privilege are sustained and broadcasted, whether it is what you put in your body, the bumper sticker on your car, which health problems you can afford to worry about, or even the quality of the air you breathe.

Many of the LA-based photographer’s images use a recipe of carefully constructed scenarios to question how the medium perpetuates these distinctions. Buck pays actors and models throughout his work to stand in and take on the appearance of generic characters, at times reminiscent of commercial or advertising tropes. In this breaking down of boundaries between different rules of photography, his work goes beyond a fetishism or repudiation of wealthy habits, in favour of something more ambivalent and uncomfortable. Through webs of association stretching across various photographic styles, these photographs excavate an anthropology of America whiteness – where the quest for authenticity and wellbeing is aestheticised, internalised and commodified.

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Buck Ellison: Cheeseboard, 2016

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Buck Ellison: Untitled (Christmas Card #2), 2017

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Buck Ellison: Organic Vegetable Garden, Crystal Springs Upland School, Hillsborough, California, 2014

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Buck Ellison: Strenuous Life, 2013

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Buck Ellison: Hiker, 2015

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Buck Ellison: Hummus, 2015

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Buck Ellison: Mama, 2016

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Buck Ellison: Pasta Night, 2016

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Buck Ellison: Untitled (Cars), 2008

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Buck Ellison: Pro, 2016

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Buck Ellison: Sunset, 2015

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Buck Ellison: Student Garden, The Branson School, Ross, California, 2016

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