The Return of the Western Monarch
A Photographic Exhibition and Scientific Roadmap for Protecting this Endangered Species
In The Studio, March 17 through April 30, 2023
Elizabeth Weber is an independent documentary photographer, raised in Bolinas and currently living in Santa Barbara.
Elizabeth is an environmental advocate and focuses her photography on ecological issues, in relation to both nature’s degradation and nature’s healing. Whether through personal projects or for nonprofit work, a deep concern for the environment guides her work and is at the core of all projects that are undertaken.
While raising her three children, Elizabeth has pursued her career as a photographer, taking courses at Anderson Ranch and Santa Fe Photographic Workshops. She is currently an MFA student at the Academy of Art University.
Elizabeth has traveled with and photographed for Global Green Grants Fund for over 12 years and has a current exhibit of her work on plastic marine debris in the Hawaiian Islands, on display at the Hawai’i Wildlife Discovery Center on Maui.
Born in Bolinas to activists, writer/rancher Orville Schell and photographer Ilka Hartman, Ole Schell graduated from the NYU Tisch School of the Arts. He is the founder of the West Marin Monarch Sanctuary and partner in Orville Schell Farms, growing many crops.
When not tending to his family land, he works around the globe, creating diverse documentaries and ads for major companies emphasizing sustainability and electric cars.
His documentaries have been released theatrically and on TV by the Sundance Channel, RTL, Warner Brothers, Channel 4 in the UK, and many more.
The alarming decline in this butterfly population has moved Schell to establish a Western Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary on his family land in Bolinas. With extensive research, partnership with specialists, and a creative vision, Schell has planted hundreds of native plants and developed a program to support the butterflies and inform and inspire the public.
Elizabeth Weber’s photographs are both an expression of reverence and a call to remember the western monarch’s plight as it nears extinction. Habitat loss, overuse of pesticides, and climate change have all contributed to their decline. In August of 2022, monarch butterflies were categorized as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Elizabeth’s photographs marry documentary photography and writing with an ethereal aesthetic. The process of printing in black and white on vellum paper and adding gold leaf creates a physical aesthetic that suggests the fragility of monarchs, speaking to both the fragility of their habitat and the fragility of their existence. It also expresses a feeling of reverence. By removing the magnificent color that monarchs are known by, Elizabeth is asking the viewer to look at them in a new way and to think about what it would mean to lose them from our world