Emmet Gowin has been taking aerial photographs of the landscape in the United States, Mexico, Czechoslovakia, Asia, and the Middle East for over twenty years. In his most compelling photographs, one witnesses how man’s footprint has visually scarred and continually altered the earth’s surface. This extraordinary book, published in conjunction with the first major touring exhibition of Gowin’s photographs in over ten years, focuses on images created after 1986. That was the year Gowin began to extend his aerial photography explorations in America by recording images of military test sites, missile silos, ammunition storage and disposal facilities, coal mining, pivot irrigation, offroad motor traffic, and more. The book also surveys his more recent works, which focus on other regions of the world, including the battlefields of Kuwait, new golf courses in Japan, and the chemo-petrol industries of the Czech Republic. Gowin’s richly toned black-and-white images have been characterized as “immorally gorgeous,” since at a distance even his most disturbing images can appear to be beautiful.
In this exquisitely produced volume, Jock Reynolds provides an overview of Gowin’s aerial photography and places it in the context of his earlier work and that of such photographers as Carleton Watkins, Alfred Stieglitz, Ansel Adams, and Frederick Sommer. Philip Brookman illuminates Gowin’s recent work in the Czech Republic, while Terry Tempest Williams discusses Gowin’s images from the American West, especially his Nevada Test Site series.