Johnson, Eirik
U.S. (1974 - )
Cindy, Nemah River Hatchery, Washington
Inkjet print
39 1/2 x 49 3/4 in. (100.3 x 126.4 cm) exposed sheet size; 41 1/4 x 51 x 1 7/8 in. (104.8 x 129.5 x 4.8 cm) frame size
Purchased with funds from Lyn and Jerry Grinstein and donors to the Henry Acquisition Fund
FA 2010.25

These photographs are from Eirik Johnson’s series Sawdust Mountain, which explores the entangled social, environmental, and economic aspects of rural Pacific Northwest industry and ecology. On the far right is an image of the Glines Canyon Dam (demolished in 2014) that spanned the Elwha River on the Olympic Peninsula. Constructed in 1927, this dam, along with the nearby Elwha Dam (demolished beginning in 2011), were used to generate power for lumber and paper mills, as well as major military installations on the peninsula. These interventions had significant effects on the ecosystems of this watershed, disrupting the habitat of the native salmon. Hatcheries, as the one in the photograph to the immediate right, became a means to sustain salmon populations, and also became a source of jobs for rural communities. Collectively, Johnson’s images weave a narrative of the complex dynamics that enmesh people and the landscape, resisting easy moralizing about the contemporary relationship between humans and the environment.

Johnson’s photographs also consciously engage with the history of landscape imagery to shape stories about place, from nineteenth-century paintings glorifying westward expansion to documentary photographs of the Pacific Northwest that record the transformation of this region into a site of industry.

Label copy for The Time. The Place. Contemporary Art from the Collection, November 4, 2017 to March 25, 2018.

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