Friday, October 18, 2019
Emmet Gowin, Laura McPhee to Tell of Great Basin’s Impact on Their Photography
Laura McPhee’s “Tire Shop” is an archival pigment print shot at Cherry Creek, Nev. COURTESY: Laura McPhee and Gail Severn Gallery
Tuesday, July 9, 2019


Emmet Gowin has spent much of his career photographing the American West—not from the ground but from the air.

His intention: To show how iconic Western landscapes in Nevada and Washington have been changed by nuclear testing or nature, as in the case of Mount St. Helens.

He was inspired to become a photographer by an Ansel Adams photograph of a burnt tree with a young bud growing from the stump that he saw at 16. He began taking aerial photographs of Mount St. Helens soon after it erupted, then spent the next 20 years capturing strip mining sites, nuclear testing fields and large-scale agricultural fields in places like the Hanford Test Site in Washington.

Gowen will join Laura McPhee, who photographs many scenes around Sun Valley, for a free panel discussion on “Photographing the Great Basin” at 6 tonight—Tuesday, July 9—at Ketchum’s Community Library.

The talk is hosted by the Sun Valley Center for the Arts, which is showcasing works of both photographers in its current visual arts exhibition “Mirage: Energy, Water and Creativity in the Great Basin.”

The two will talk about what drew them to spend time in the Great Basin, how they have used their art to tell complicated stories about the unique environment of the Great Basin and the human agencies and individuals that have altered its landscape.

McPhee, who is represented by Gail Severn Gallery, has taken images in Nevada as part of a larger project inspired in part by her great-grandmother’s legacy as an itinerant schoolteacher in mining and ranching towns in Nevada.

“Despite their different approaches, they have worked at some of the same sites and consider many of the same ideas,” said Courtney Gilbert, curator of Visual Arts at The Center.

“The photographs Emmet Gowin has lent to the exhibition offer startling views of the scarring and cratering of the Great Basin’s landscapes as a result of activities like munitions storage and even off-road travel. Laura McPhee has made photographs at some of the same sites as Gowin, but she works on the ground. Like Gowin, she has made images of mining, military and energy infrastructure, but her photographs also tell a story of the Great Basin as a place of reinvention.”

“Mirage: Energy, Water and Creativity in the Great Basin” is on view through Aug. 23.


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