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Eirik Johnson: Sawdust Mountainby Eirik Johnson
Sawdust Mountain is a gorgeous book. I'm not a photographer, a historian, or a visual artist but I've been a bookseller for a decade, and I've lived in the northwest almost 20 years, and this book comes closer to visually depicting the legacy of logging than any other book I've seen.
These pictures are true. These pictures are subdued. They are full of fog and mist and shadow. They are full of rain and dams and salmon; full of forests and clear-cuts and rural poverty, resignation, and years of sadness. The past weighs heavy in these photographs, records of a northwest even those of us with roots here don't commonly remember or recognize.
Eirik Johnson has captured a sense of struggle, like a salmon running on light test; something harrowing, like the memory of birdsong in a forest turned to weeds. His images evoke without comment, yet they speak volumes about a shared heritage, capturing the contradictory impulses and directions of northwest lives.
In Sawdust Mountain, the hard-working eyes of loggers and fishermen mirror images of denuded, empty landscapes, of ramshackle towns and threadbare winter clothes. These are photographs of nebulous existence: the trees are gone, but the people who felled them remain; the land is cleared, yet it still defines what it means to be a northwesterner. These are photographs of the everyday, and because of that, they are timeless. Therein lies this book's power as David Guterson succinctly states in his introductory poem: "There was nowhere to go and we went / There together."
Synopses & Reviews
A culmination of four years of photographing throughout Oregon, Washington and Northern California, Sawdust Mountain focuses on the tenuous relationship between industries reliant upon natural resources and the communities they support. Timber and salmon are the bedrock of a regional Northwest identity, but the environmental impact of these declining industries has been increasingly at odds with the contemporary ideal of sustainability. In this, his second book, Johnson reveals a landscape imbued with an uncertain future--no longer the region of boomtowns built upon the riches of massive old-growth forests. Johnson, a Seattle native, describes his photographs as, a melancholy love letter of sorts, my own personal ramblings... Through this poetic approach, Sawdust Mountain records a region affected by historic economic complexities and, by extension, one aspect of our fraught relationship with the environment in the twenty-first century.
Eirik Johnson, born in Seattle in 1974, is an Assistant Professor of Photography at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston. His work has been exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, George Eastman House and Aperture Gallery. His first book, Borderlands, was awarded the Santa Fe Prize for Photography in 2005.
Text by Tess Gallagher, Elizabeth Brown. Poem by David Guterson.
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