Emmet Gowin was born in Danville, Virginia on December 22, 1941. He received a BFA degree from the Richmond Professional Institute in 1965, and a MFA degree in 1967 from the Rhode Island School of Design, where he studied with Harry Callahan. He has taught at Princeton University since 1973.
Gowin's early photographs centered on his family, friends and neighbors, and the landscape in and around Danville, Virginia and Newtown, Pennsylvania. Gowin's later European landscapes represent an expansion of Gowin's photographic world. Still later aerial views of Mount Saint Helens, Washington and Arizona represent Gowin's examination of the landscapes devastated by natural disasters or industrial use.
The photographer who has had the greatest influence on Gowin's work is Frederick Sommer (1905-1999). Gowin knew of Sommer through his photographs and writings published in Aperture in the early 1960s, but through his friendship he was able to "discover in Sommer's ideas a personal cosmology that connected the practice of making art with a larger pursuit integrating history, physics, poetry, music, and philosophy." [Martha Chahroudi, Emmet Gowin Photographs, 1990]
Bibliographic Reference: Bunnell, Peter C. Emmet Gowin: Photographs. Boston: Bulfinch Press, 1990.
Photographs of family, friends, and neighbors, and the landscape of Danville, Virginia and Newtown, Pennsylvania are represented in the collection by 12 photographs. There are 3 photographs of European landscapes (Italy and Ireland), and 3 aerial views made in the western U.S. Still lifes of oysters and a wasp's nest account for the remaining 2 photographs.
The Museum's library collection holds a copy of Gowin's 1965 senior thesis, Concerning "America and Alfred Stieglitz" and Myself, with fourteen of Gowin's photographs. The images are environmental portraits made in Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, Ontario, Canada, and New York City.
The Museum's twenty Gowin photographs were acquired between 1967 and 1990. The earliest of these images came to the collection as part of portfolios published by the Rhode Island School of Design and the Dayton Art Institute. Additional prints were purchased from 1971 to 1985 and again in 1990. Two Gowin photographs were part of a 1986 gift from the Chase Lincoln First Bank of Rochester.
Del Zogg, 8/2000