One of the foremost collectible photo-artists today is Richard Ehrlich. His distinctive talents produce profound photo images ranging from crystal facets to Rothko-inspired skyscapes and Namibian landscapes, employing effects usually associated with the painter’s brush.
Ehrlich, largely self-taught, uses a Canon Mark II, 16.7 megapixels. “It gives me a huge file and the latitude to make very large digital photographs,” he says. His Epson inkjet pigment prints are produced with a subtle matte finish on Epson UltraSmooth paper. Epson considers the pigments archival — they will, the company predicts, last 200 years. “This is a defining moment in color photography,” Ehrlich declares. “Before inkjet, color prints, as traditionally done in the darkroom, began to fade after about ten years. Museums are now acquiring the inkjet prints with no concern for longevity.”
When he was a student at Cornell University, Ehrlich was inspired by Mark Rothko’s paintings; he would often cut science classes to attend lectures on Rothko’s work. Now, years later, after having become an eminent physician, he has created a stunning photographic series, Homage to Rothko: Malibu Skies. He explains, “I have thousands of photographs of the sky. These images were taken in front of my house. At the computer, we pick components from several different elements for one composite image, using fragments of sky, clouds, and water.” The result: an image composed of loosely stacked rectangles, reminiscent of Rothko’s canvases, glowing with sensuous color. Color, composition, and natural light have come together in an original form. Art and technology have merged.
To those who may view digital printmaking as cheating or as an artificial art form, Ehrlich responds, “That’s totally bogus, because the vintage photographers optimized all their images in the darkroom with chemicals. These are optimized on the computer. I think Ansel Adams would have loved Photoshop. He said, ‘The only thing that really counts is what’s hanging on the wall. It doesn’t matter how it got there.’”
Ehrlich’s work has been shown in numerous galleries across the country; the Smithsonian Institution recently selected his work for its permanent collection. His passion for photography has made him a tireless globetrotter when he’s not working in his state-of-the-art studio in Malibu, California.
Recently, having heard about a haunting site in Namibia, on Africa’s west coast, Ehrlich flew to the country and drove to the desert to see the territory for himself. Camping for two weeks with a guide, he recorded the desert landscape, coming back with astonishing pictures of shifting sands in abandoned doorways, bathed in eerie light, open to the whims of nature. Ann Landi, a contributing editor of Art News, noted, in an essay accompanying Richard Ehrlich & the Digital Image, a 2005 exhibition in the Tennessee State Museum, “Ehrlich’s images capture that feeling of loss and flux, the sense that change is inevitable no matter what we do to leave a mark on the landscape.”
Ehrlich’s sensitivity to composition and light reveals an acute awareness of the decisive moment, defined by Henri Cartier-Bresson as “the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event, as well as the precise organization of forms which gives that event its proper expression.” Ehrlich’s remarkable aesthetic instincts, combined with his technical training as a world-class physician, have resulted in an irresistible fusion of fine art and modern technology. Collectors, take note.
Sandra Morgan is a well-known designer with a studio and Greenwich, CT and Vero Beach, www.sandramorganinteriors.com. Richard Ehrlich’s images are through the Bonni Benrubi New York City. Its website is www.bonnibenrubi.com.