Slide Show - Images (mostly) from The Illustrated History of Painting


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Emmet Gowin

Emmet Gowin. Photographer Richard Ross introduced me to Gowin's work when I was in graduate school. This is the first Gowin image I was to see and it is indelible in memory. When I revisit it it looks always as I remember. It never disappoints. 

The photo is of Gowin's wife Edith. Taken in Danville Virginia where both lived, had family, met, and married.  "I wanted to pay attention to the body and personality that had agreed out of love to reveal itself." says Gowin, of the person, place and time of life - which came together, to generatively shape him as an artist.

Later, in Rhode Island, Gowin studied with Harry Callahan - who was also in the lifelong habit of recording his wife on film. Both photographers' images of their spouses are loving, frankly amorous and ruthlessly honest visual testaments. Both photographers' images of their loved one make me feel acquisitive, and at a loss - in competing ways, difficult to articulate.

When I lectured, for a short while, at Princeton University I had occasion to meet Emmet Gowin, who was then teaching there. I had several brief conversations with him, about his work and his connection to Callahan. 

And then, one evening, at a social gathering I had the good fortune to meet Gowin's wife and muse, Edith. She was by then older than in the photographs of her I'd become familiar with. But there she was before me, with that unmistakable 'old dominion' bone structure and the strength of character, so evident in Gowin's documents of her. She was as clear and unassuming as spring water. Very 'there'.  And with that there's not much left to say ... except for due expressions of gratitude to life's fortunate circumstances and encouragement to others to seek out Gowin (and Callahan's) rhapsodic, 'lost world', images.