Emmet Gowin American, 1941-
For Emmet Gowin (born in Danville, Virginia), the intimate bonds of family are at the root of human experience. His early black-and-white photographs of his wife, Edith, their two sons, Elijah and Isaac, and Edith's extended family in Danville focused on the cycle of life, how people relate to the land, and the ritual importance of the everyday. These themes pervade his life's work.
After graduating from the Richmond Professional Institute (B.A. in graphic design, 1965), Gowin immersed himself in photography. He studied with Harry Callahan at the Rhode Island School of Design (M.F.A., 1967) and visited Walker Evans in New York, who praised Gowin's student work and exchanged prints. Gowin also became acquainted with Frederick Sommer and his philosophical and aesthetic ideas, a friendship that has endured.
In 1973 Gowin began to photograph the landscape and has since traveled the world, working extensively in the British Isles, Italy, Jordan, and Israel. Since the early 1980s, he has made aerial photographs of geographic areas that have been altered by either natural or man-made forces: the industrial-scale agriculture of the Great Plains, the U.S. -- Mexico border, the nuclear test area of Yucca Flats, and Kuwait after the Gulf War. Publications of his work include Emmet Gowin/Photographs (1976), Petra (1986), and Emmet Gowin/Photographs (1990).
In addition to teaching at the Dayton Art Institute in Ohio (1967-71) and Princeton University (since 1973), Gowin has taught workshops and lectured extensively throughout the United States, Europe, and Japan. A major traveling retrospective of his work was organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art (1990), and he has had one-person exhibitions at the Dayton Art Institute (1968), the Museum of Modern Art, New York (with Robert Adams, 1971), George Eastman House, Rochester (1971), the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (1971, 1973, 1983), the Photo Gallery International, Tokyo (1989, 1993), Espace Photographie Marie de Paris (1992), the American Centers at Fokuoka, Osaka, Kyoto, Saporo, Yokohama, and Tokyo (1992-93), and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (1995).
Among his achievements are fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (1974), the National Endowment for the Arts (1977, 1979), and the Pew Charitable Trust (1995), as well as the Friends of Photography Peer Award (1992). Gowin lives in Newtown, Pennsylvania. A.W.