Washing dishes—the most ordinary of chores—led photographer Ernie Button on a decadelong discovery of a fantasy universe. While placing an empty whisky glass in the dishwasher, he noticed at the bottom a thin residue of evaporated alcohol—specifically, Scotch, the term for a whisky aged more than three years in oak barrels in Scotland. When the last drops of alcohol dried up, they left sediment from the whisky’s distillates. Button took the glass to his studio, laid it on its side, and took pictures.
The whisky-sediment patterns are like snowflakes; each has a unique design. They all, however, are light gray until Button lights them with multicolored lamps. The gray lines and swirls spring to life and make the rich designs resemble colorful landscapes of planets and moons. “I think of it as drinks and a show,” he says. Through trial and error, Button found that only Scotch whiskies accumulate enough sediment. The oldest he’s photographed is a 25-year-old whisky. (Verdict: no big difference.)
In contrast to photographers who shoot epic scenes in exotic locales, Button looks inward and stays local. Before photographing spirits, he created landscapes with breakfast cereal boxes and chronicled the disappearance of coin-operated rides at grocery stores. Button’s work proves there are wild things to be observed in everyday life, even in dirty dishes.