The great 20th-century landscape photographer Ansel Adams once said: “Nature is a vast, chaotic collection of shapes. You as an artist create configurations out of chaos. You make a formal statement where there was none to begin with.” Adams’s sentiment resonates with the work of contemporary landscape photographer Mitch Dobrowner, who’s painstakingly captured nature’s supreme beauty with images from the Canyonlands, Utah and the Great Plains. A new show at photo-eye gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico, “Still Earth | Storms,” showcases Dobrowner’s black-and-white photographs of rock formations and intense storm systems over the open plains.
In Dobrowner’s unique vision, his photographs carefully contrast the Canyonlands’ delicately balanced rock pinnacles, as in Goblin in Desert (2013), with ominous sheets of wind and rain, as in Landspout (2014). His work Sunrise Over Spires (2014) presents a calm yet majestic quality, achieved through a somewhat aerial perspective, taken as the photographer peered down at the canyons below him. There isn’t a storm cell in sight, but a gradual gradient from dark to light suggests the sun is rising in the sky while the weathered cliffs look otherworldly; it’s hard to believe that this place exists on Earth. In contrast, a photograph of a large and powerful storm, Supercell at Dusk (2014), is both impressive and terrifying. Large thunderbolts have escaped the storms center, and provide context as to how massive this force really is.
Though we take geological formations for granted, and expect them to be a part of our landscape for thousands of years to come, Dobrowner might subtly be suggesting that erosion and change are constantly occurring, and as a photographer, he intends to capture this scenery as it is, and preserve its inspiring views for prosperity.
“Still Earth | Storms,” is on view at photo-eye, Santa Fe, Nov. 21, 2014–Jan. 23, 2015.
May 4–8, 2018, Park Avenue Armory