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photo-eye Book Reviews: Thoughts on Landscape

Thoughts on Landscape, By Frank Gohlke. 
Published by Hol Art Books, 2009.
Thoughts on Landscape
Reviewed by Mary Anne Redding
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Frank Gohlke  Thoughts on Landscape
By Frank Gohlke
Hol Art Books, 2009. Softbound. 208 pp., 6x9".

Frank Gohlke's Thoughts on Landscape: Collected Writings and Interviews is a delightful meditation on place, or in this instance, the various places one inhabits during an artistic career of over 30 years: Wichita Falls, Texas; the North Dakota prairies; rural Minnesota farmlands; Mount St. Helens in the Cascade Range of Southwestern Washington; and the Sudbury River in Eastern Massachusetts. Although Gohlke abandoned his graduate studies in English literature during his third year at Yale because of debilitating writer's block, he gleaned more than adequate writing skills to amass this series of articulate essays collected from years of looking and thinking deeply about images - both his own and those of his friends, colleagues, and students.

Gohlke is remarkably focused. Reading the book one gets the sense that once he made the decision to pick up his camera he never really looked back. Instead he looked at the land in whatever part of the country he found himself and through his image making tried to locate himself within the history and culture of very particular landscapes. "Landscape is an active principle. Its existence is the result of human actions* and natural processes in ever-changing combinations, and its understanding requires that the senses, the mind, and the imagination be fully engaged..." 

In a unique publishing venture the independent Hol Art Books brings teams of people together via online communication to publish a book. The Thoughts on Landscape team consisted of author Frank Gohlke, project manager Greg Albers, and  designer Andrew Sloat. My one recommendation would be add a professional editor to the team. A few glaringly obvious oversights in editing mar what is otherwise smooth reading.

*authors aside: even in those instance where land is set aside and designated as wilderness areas, the very act of designation is human intervention.


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Mary Anne Redding is the Curator of Photography at the Palace of the Governors/New Mexico History Museum in Santa Fe.

1 comment:

  1. I got a copy of this book in Tucson when I was at CCP to see the New Topographics revisitation, so I was interested to read Mary Anne's review. I started reading the book at a corner cafe in Tempe that was shooting mist into the afternoon air and was frequented by some very brazen sparrows. I'd like to say I couldn't put it down, because it is an extremely compelling read, but as Mary Anne says, it is meditative, so the reading requires some pauses to look out into the distance and contemplate what he has written. Other pauses were, as the reviewer notes, to cringe about editorial slips (yeah, I'm a former English major like the photographer). As an object in the hand, this is a beautiful, satisfying book and I am excited about the series. We already know Golhke can make pictures -- but whew the man can write. A guy who is eloquent in more than one medium? Daggone it, that just makes me woozy. -- Kate Ware

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