Frank Gohlke is enjoying a retrospective at the
I have been familiar with Frank’s work for quite some time now. While I was in school I was drawn to his landscape images of grain elevators throughout
For a young photographer, it is rare that one gets to own actual prints of any photographer outside of close friends but I have had the luck of coming to own two of Frank’s early photographs. This came about due to my sharing a loft space near Tompkin’s Square park in 1992 with a woman whose parents were friends of the Gohlke’s. When I moved in and she found that I was a photographer she excitedly started to mention a ‘landscape photographer’ she knew, but disappointingly, none of her other photographer friends were familiar with his name or work. She ran to her closet and returned with an 11X14 Kodak paper box and upon opening it she asked ‘Do you know who Frank Gohlke is?’ To my surprise, a print of the exact image that I studied on the walls at MoMA for all of those years was right at the top of the stack.
Originally studying English literature, Gohlke’s first interest was in becoming an essayist but a bout of writer’s block sent him into making experimental films along the shoreline of
After several years of honing his craft, Gohlke found his stride not within Caponigro’s untouched wildernesses but within the landscape of the
Gohlke’s work has been the subject of three books before this recent publication. In 1988 the Friends of Photography in
It was within this book that I first experienced a sense of lingering danger from nature that is an underlying thread through some of Gohlke’s projects. In 1979, he made a series of images of the aftermath of a tornado that swept through his hometown of
Around the same time as he was photographing the rebuilding of
In 1992, Johns Hopkins University Press published Measure of Emptiness: Grain Elevators in the American Landscape a book dedicated to Gohlke’s photographs taken in the 1970‘s. Grain elevators provide some of the most distinct architecture of the farmland and Gohlke’s photographs highlight their contradictory alien yet familiar appearance within the flat surrounding landscape.
The image that I used to stare at on the wall at MoMA (and braggingly, I get to stare at here at home) is of a brick building in
Measure of Emptiness was originally published in a hardcover edition and later in softcover. The hardcover edition has become rather valuable and is commanding high prices on the secondary market. Copies of the softcover edition are readily available at reasonable prices.
In 1987, Gohlke and his family move to
A small catalog called The Sudbury River: A Celebration was published in 1992 by the
This brings me full circle and to the latest book Accommodating Nature: The Photographs of Frank Gohlke. Throughout his other books, Frank has exhibited not only his talent for making images but also his remarkable talent for writing. What is an added joy about this new book is that Frank ties all of his various projects together with a running narrative of text that covers his life with photography as a near constant companion. Uncharacteristic of most retrospective type books, this one is not constructed with a strict chronological order to the images. The photographs follow the text in this regard and pleasurably serve as flash back and memory alongside Frank’s steady narration.
Gohlke is a writer of such talent that by the time we get to the two other essays by John Rohrbach and Rebecca Solnit, although perfectly fine and very well crafted, they seem superfluous as Gohlke’s voice has established itself to be the perfect guide.
If you are not familiar with the work of Frank Gohlke then this book would be a perfect introduction. It is finely printed in tri-tone and four color reproduction. The design is conservative but importantly allows the photographs to be reproduced at a good size to fully appreciate Gohlke’s technical prowess. It is printed in an edition of 1,750 paperback and only 500 clothbound copies. There is a limited edition of 50 that are case bound and signed and come with an original print. These are available through Howard Greenberg Gallery in
Book Available Here (Mount St. Helens)
Book Available Here (Landscapes from the Middle of the World)
Book Available Here (Measure of Emptiness)