New York Photo Review
Volume 4 Issue 49 Holiday Holidays! December 18 to 31, 2013

The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino

Above It All
Emmet Gowin
Landscapes Andalucia
Ed Barnas

Photo by Emmet Gowin . Source: Emmet Gowin, "The Montes Occidentales, Granada, Spain" 2012

In 2012 Emmet Gowin received an invitation from Carlos Gollonet of the Fundacion Mapfre to photograph the landscape of his native Andalucía from the air. The result is on view at the Pace MacGill Gallery as a series of twenty-one lyrical color pigment prints.

The high vantage point of these photographs reduces people to invisibility in an agricultural not yet so high that evidence of their activity is lost. The viewer can easily pick out the rows of dots indicating cultivated fields and orchards as well as the boundaries of fields and roads. The color palette tends toward browns and yellows mixed with the green of the vegetation. In some the light comes from overhead but in many of these images one can see the long shadows cast by the rising or setting sun. Almost as if a modeling light was used to enhance the contours of the land, these shadows, from within and without the frame, heighten the feeling of three dimensions.

Photo by Emmet Gowin . Source: Emmet Gowin, "Les Montes Occidentales,

Granada,Spain" 2012

Yet unnumbered and simply titled with the general location, it is difficult to refer to any individual image. Those which struck me in particular include the print mounted on the front wall from the Montes Occidentales area: a red-brown and yellow hill in the background with a long narrow tan field surrounded by a fringe of trees, looking like a reclining figure in the foreground. In another image from the same area, the light comes from below and the trees seem to be engulfed in a flowing flood of yellow and brown. The curved borders of a light yellow field make one image from the Guadix-Baza region look like an open book against the mottled brown of the surrounding field. In another from this area the light modeling the hills calls to mind a dragon.

Photo by Emmet Gowin . Source: Emmet Gowin, "The Gaudix-Baza Region, Granada, Spain" 2012

The images on display are certainly a departure from Gowin’s earlier aerial photography from the 1980’s and 1990’s. In those images the vision is darker. Starting with the aftermath of the Mt St Helen’s eruption in 1980, he documented landscapes scarred by human activity, whether the purpose was military (atomic bomb test sites), commercial (mining, pivot farming), or recreational (golf courses, off-road vehicles) (see Emmet Gowin: Changing the Earth, Aerial Photographs. New Haven, CT: Yale University Art Gallery, in assoc. with The Corcoran Gallery of Art and Yale University Press, 2002). Taken after a break from aerial photography of almost a decade, these new photographs offer a feeling of people more in tune with the land.

Photo by Emmet Gowin . Source: Emmet Gowin, "The Gaudix-Baza Region, Granada, Spain" 2012

Any discussion of contemporary aerial photography must include a mention of Edward Burtynsky whose series Water is currently being exhibited widely. In particular, the subset Dryland Farming focused on the same region of Spain and was shown in NYC at the Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery in late 2011 offers a contrast to Gowin’s images.

Both men have worked with aerial photography for decades (Burtynsky started in the mid-1980s) and both have documented the effect of man on the environment. Burtynsky has worked primarily in color, while Gowin, until this recent series, had worked in black and white. The master of the large scale print, Burtynsky’s Dryland Farming images were printed in sizes from 48x64 to 60x80. Gowin, however, offers a more traditional presentation, 13x20 images, framed in white mats.

Looking at these two series I am struck by a greater abstraction in many of Burtynsky’s images (e.g., Dryland Farming #7, 14, 17, 18, & 21 which remind me of crystallographic studies). The colors, with a greater amount of grays and whites, seem much cooler than the warmth I find in Gowin’s color work. While some of these differences may stem from the different seasons in which these images were made (Burtynsky’s, summer 2010; Gowin’s, October 2012), the ultimate determinant is the photographer who chooses when to trip the shutter and which image to print.

Emmet Gowin
Landscapes Andalucia

Pace Gallery
32 E 57th St. 9th Fl
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