In 1980 the first significant volcanic eruption in the continental United States since 1915 occurred on Mount St. Helens in Washington State. The force of the explosion was cataclysmic: the entire north face of the mountain slid away and entire forests were flattened. This exhibition brings together important series by Frank Gohlke and Emmet Gowin. These two innovative, influential practitioners of landscape photography, working independently, revealed nature’s terrifying transformation of the mountain and surrounding countryside. In turn, the experience of photographing Mount St. Helens altered their approaches to landscape and forever changed the course of their art.
Because access to the mountain was initially limited to flyovers, both photographers took to the air during their initial visits to investigate the newborn land around the mountain. It was Gowin’s first experience with aerial photography, a practice that would soon become central to his landscape work. He made several trips there between 1980 and 1986. Gohlke returned to the region numerous times between 1981 and 1990 and his photographs testify to the volcano's destructive force but also chronicle the land's rebirth during its first decade.
American Vesuvius is the first time that in-depth selections from Gowin and Gohlke’s Mount St. Helens images have been together in a single exhibition. The exhibition of 47 photographs contains nine never-seen-before Gowin images. Visitors to the exhibition will have a unique opportunity to compare and contrast the work of these eminent photographers while exploring nature’s destruction, then regeneration, of Mount St. Helens.