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photo-eye Book Reviews: Supercell

Supercell, By Kevin Erskine.
Published by Hatje Cantz, 2012.
Reviewed by Daniel W. Coburn
Kevin Erskine Supercell
Photographs by Kevin Erskine
Hatje Cantz, 2012. Hardbound. 200 pp., 120 color illustrations, 13-1/2x10-1/4".

Kevin Erskine is not your average storm chaser. While a new generation of thrill seekers barrel down gravel roads in vans equipped with digital imaging equipment and the latest satellite technology, Erskine relies primarily on intuition and his large format film camera to document the fury that unfolds in the sky. His images come straight from the camera to the pages of his latest monograph Supercell. He doesn't spend hours polishing and retouching them on the computer, so these photographs function as art and as a strict documentation of meteorological phenomena.

Supercell, by Kevin Erskine. Published by Hatje Cantz, 2012.
Supercell, by Kevin Erskine. Published by Hatje Cantz, 2012.
Erskine transports his viewer to the realm of the sublime. We see turbulent skies rolling over the plains of Kansas, Nebraska and Texas. The tiny towns, grain silos and windmills that litter the rural countryside are dwarfed by enormous "mothership" cloud formations. Fueled by atmospheric convection, giant squall lines swirl and rotate over the furrowed fields of tornado alley. Erskine shows us brilliant blues and greens on the underbelly of monster storms, while towering cumulus clouds glow orange and pink as they bask in evening sunlight. At times, the pictures resemble abstract paintings, punctured only by the presence of a narrow strip of farmland in the foreground. One of the last images in the book depicts the shattered suburban landscape of Greensburg, Kansas ravaged by a tornado in 2007. This image serves as a poignant reminder of the devastating power of nature, and as a counterpoint to the abject beauty present in each of Erskine's images.

Supercell, by Kevin Erskine. Published by Hatje Cantz, 2012.
Supercell, by Kevin Erskine. Published by Hatje Cantz, 2012.
Environmental writer and historian Richard Hamblyn compares Erskine's photographs to the expressive landscape paintings of William Turner. In the introduction to Supercell, Hamblyn provides a history of storm chasing. He traces the American tradition back to weather tracking efforts made by Ben Franklin. Redmond O'Hanlon contributes a poetic text that simultaneously celebrates and criticizes Erskine's artistic practice, warning those that dare to tempt the deadly wrath of nature.

Supercell is a beautiful oversized book bound in linen. Its 190 pages are filled with amazing panoramic images reproduced in brilliant color. This book will appeal to weather geeks and those that appreciate documentary landscape photography. I am pleased to have this book on my bookshelf and I am sure you will enjoy it as well.—DANIEL W. COBURN

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Read the photo-eye Blog interview with Kevin Erskine here

DANIEL W. COBURN is a contemporary photographer whose visually arresting images have garnered national and international praise. Selections from his body of work have been featured in prestigious exhibitions at the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art and the Chelsea Museum of Art in New York. In 2007, Coburn was a recipient of the Artist-In-Residence award at Rocky Mountain National Park. He published a photographic essay entitled Rediscovering Paradise which focused on the impact of an overwhelming human presence in the National Park. He was a recipient of the 2008 Kansas Mid-Career Artist Fellowship Award presented by the Kansas Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts. Coburn's prints are held in many public and private collections including The Mulvane Museum of Art, The Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art, The Mariana Kistler-Beach Museum of Art and the Moraine Park Museum. Daniel is co-author of a book entitled "Between Earth and Sky" which showcases his collection of photographs from the Midwest. His writings and photographs appear regularly in regional and national publications including Fraction Magazine and photo-eye Magazine. Coburn recieved his BFA with an emphasis in photography from Washburn University where he was the recipient of numerous honors including the prestigious Charles and Margaret Pollak Award. He is currently an instructor and graduate student studying photography at the University of New Mexico.