At a recent photography exhibit in Las Vegas, you might not know right away what you're looking at. Visitors suggests the photos on display could be a cross-section of a tree, or a moon or planet. But in fact, these are photos of evaporated whisky crud.
Ernie Button's day job is speech pathology. But his hobbies include photography … and drinking Scotch whisky in the evening. That's how this whole thing began in 2008. "After you've taken that last drop or that last sip of whisky, the residue dries in the bottom of the glass and leaves me these wonderful patterns," he said. "And when I went to collect the glasses in the morning, I noticed this film in the bottom of the glass. And when I held it up to the light, I saw these fine repetitive patterns in the bottom of the glass. I'm like, 'I can try and do something with this.'"
The title of his project is "Vanishing Spirits: The Dried Remains of Single-Malt Scotch."
He uses different colored lights and gels to give the whiskey glasses their purple and blue and orange glows. Without those lights, the whiskey crud would appear whitish-gray.
"Nature is giving me the pattern, I'm giving it the life," Button said.
These days, he experiments with different kinds of drinking glasses, sheets of glass, and whiskeys from different parts of the world.
He has tried different alcohols. "I found that they have to be aged in a [wooden] cask -- taking in, you know, all the organic material from the wood into that spirit that was put in there. Tequila, that will work; that will give me some interesting images. Vodka won't."
Is there a lesson to take away from Button's whiskey glass photography? "The ignored or the overlooked can have relevance, can have interest," he said. "If you don't look around, if you don't pay attention to the really small things in life, you could miss out on something really big."
For more info:
- Photographer Ernie Button
- "The Art of Whisky: The Vanishing Spirits of Single Malt Scotch" by Ernie Button (Chronicle Books), in Hardcover and eBook formats, available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Bookshop.org
- "Ernie Button: The Art of Whiskey" at FAS44 (FreyBoy Art Salon), Las Vegas
Story produced by John Goodwin. Editor: Joseph Frandino.
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