Photographer Emmet Gowin arrived at Mount St. Helens in June 1980, one month after its initial, cataclysmic eruption. He secured a permit to fly over the volcano in what became the first of many visits to the site over the next five years. For Gowin, photographing Mount St. Helens from the air did not produce a sense of detachment or mastery, but of surprising intimacy: “I felt like I was photographing the stomach or the heart, the organs of the landscape. I was trying to show what the beating heart of the landscape was like.”
In aerial photographs such as this one highlighted in the special exhibition Volcano! Mount St. Helens in Art, the violently transformed landscape becomes nearly abstract. Share this photograph with a friend or family member without revealing the title or any information about it. Ask them to look closely and describe the shapes and textures they see. Is there a top or a bottom? Do they recognize any natural or manmade features in the image? As you consider the landscape around you now—whether interior or outside—how are you bringing new perspectives to familiar scenes? And if Gowin has awakened your interest in the interplay between aerial photography and abstract art, try this game: NASA or MOMA?
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The Poster Project is supported by the PGE Foundation.