We have occasionally “discovered” the inspirational aspect of moths in all their variations, but had not thought so much of their beauty. Thanks to Andrea K. Scott for bringing our attention to the photography of Emmet Gowin, whose “Mariposas Nocturnas: Moths of Central and South America, A Study in Beauty and Diversity” will be published this month by Princeton University Press. Also we thank her for mentioning that an exhibition of Emmet Gowin’s work will be shown at Pace/McGill Gallery from September 28th through January 6th, 2018:
The moth doesn’t enjoy the same charmed reputation as its lepidopteran cousin, the butterfly.With a handful of exceptions—the Japanese movie monster Mothra, a moody late work by van Gogh—moths are dismissed as pests, waging war on our sweaters when they’re not dive-bombing the lights. The insects even got a bad rap from Jesus: in the Sermon on the Mount, Heaven was praised for being moth-free. But with his kaleidoscopic project “Mariposas Nocturnas,” the American photographer Emmet Gowin does for the moths of Central and South America what the influential German duo Bernd and Hilla Becher once did for the water towers of Western Europe, transforming an apparently lowly subject into riveting art.
Gowin’s latest project was fifteen years in the making. He photographed more than a thousand species on visits to Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, French Guiana, and Panama, in the company of etymologists. Another man might lie back on his laurels at this stage of his career, but, at seventy-five, Gowin is breaking fresh ground: this is his first work in color. A onetime student of Harry Callahan, Gowin is renowned for his lush way with a black-and-white print. First came the tender pictures he took of his wife and family, beginning in the nineteen-sixties, followed by a pivot, in the eighties, to dramatic aerial scenes of ravaged landscapes, which have the allure of abstractions, despite the fact that they detail a planet in peril…
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