Malibu inspires myriad unique thoughts, visions, and experiences for a variety of life forms. For photographer Richard Ehrlich, after years of gazing at the sky he woke up to every morning, he experienced something of an epiphany. “I was sitting here looking at the ocean and the sky thinking that looks like a (Mark) Rothko painting. Wow! And it’s never the same!”


In just a few short years, Ehrlich’s passion for photography has taken center stage in his life (an eminent physician in his other life), producing an astonishing body of striking, visual images. So impressed with Rothko’s paintings as a student at Cornell University, Ehrlich would often cut science classes to attend art history lectures on Rothko’s works. Inspired by Rothko and his own visual experiences, he created a stunning series called 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 blocks, reminiscent of Rothko’s canvases, with a luminous glow. Ehrlich’s talent for color, composition and his romance with natural light has clearly found a home.

Largely self-taught, he gleans technique and expertise from another remarkable painter, Richard Diebenkorn, recalling his composition and muted color sense seen in the Namibia Sand Houses series. Working out of his state-of-the-art studio in Malibu, Ehrlich explains his journey with digital images saying, “I wasn’t a digital person. I had to learn from scratch. The learning curve is steep. I needed to learn the computer, Photoshop, and printing. I have to work with someone. It’s way beyond me. I work with Mac Holbert, master printer from Nash Edition, who’s probably the best in the world. It’s been fun. You have to be open to new technology.

“Some people who may not understand computers or digital printmaking think it’s an artificial art form or cheating, or not as artistic or real as regular photography. That’s totally bogus because the vintage photographers optimized all of their images in the darkroom with chemicals. These are optimized in the computer. I think Ansel Adams would have loved Photoshop. Adams said, ‘The only thing that really counts is what’s hanging on the wall. It doesn’t matter how it got there.’”

Ehrlich is a globetrotter. He has just returned from the Middle East shooting some Roman ruins. “What photography has done for me is give me a passport to travel,” said Ehrlich.

Malibu Magazine, 1/06

For complete article: Richard Ehrlich.pdf





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