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Mitch Dobrowner: Storms

photo - eye G allery 370 Garcia Street, Santa Fe

THERE IS NO CARNAGE IN MITCH DOBROWNER’S NEW SHOW, STORMS , search of “mother ship supercells.”

despite its subject matter. His black-and-white photographs,

into a UFO sighting. Clouds above the house plunge horizontally

which celebrate Dobrowner’s forthcoming book from Aperture,

into a disc shape, while fluffy tendrils float down and hover above

Up close Storms’ photographs appear blurry and powdery

also titled Storms, capture awesome weather patterns that in

the house. Rope Out is a common description for the maturation

soft. Blustering winds create plenty of movement to relegate crisp

documentation present a calm façade and definitive lull amid

of a twister, but also makes the awesome strength witnessed here

lines to photographing corpses, and his paper-rag surface makes

chaos. This vicariously voyeuristic opportunity permits space

sound like an entertaining sport. Taken in Regan, North Dakota,

the printed pigment look like small, painterly brush strokes.

for aesthetic observation and evokes questions about climate

it’s probably the most catching, iconographic photograph. Dead

The widely variegated greys in their amorphous shapes look like

change. In light of recent devastating natural disasters, our role

center is a thick gestural line that swings from the stormy clouds

a draftsman’s tiny ellipses able to squeeze the whole grey-scale

in shifting nature’s balance seems integral, but it is telling that not

above and hits the ground with the frayed eruption of spiraling

from a single pencil. Bolts of lightning in images like Wall Cloud

one of the photographs in Storms shows a living organism other

gases penetrating the earth. The surrounding area is tranquil and

look like blind contour lines; their sgraffito-like silhouettes are a

than plant life. Via these terrific images, Dobrowner delivers the

barren, in hiding from this forceful pounce.

crisp, subtractive white, determined and delicate. Dobrowner’s

sobering reality of Mother Nature’s wrath that makes man so

Out of nearly one thousand images used throughout the

technical skills, keen eye, and luck expose Mother Nature’s

completely irrelevant it’s hard to remember the brave, rogue

pages of National Geographic in 2012, Rope Out was chosen as

strength but also her weakness. The whole point of a storm, says

photographer behind the lens clicking the shutter.

one of the magazine’s top ten. Dobrowner’s work has been

Dobrowner, is “to turn an unstable environment into a stable

Images like Veil, made in Buffalo, South Dakota, show a

featured in Time magazine, The Economist, National Audubon

environment again.” The earth fights to maintain equilibrium just

tremendous tension in what is essentially water vapor. Disclosing

Society, on CNN, and in dozens of other art and news sources

like the rest of us. Storms are alive, weak in points, but gaining

polarizing forces, the far left is a narrow strip of completely clear

across the globe. An admirer of Ansel Adams, Dobrowner

strength in others. Eventually, they dissipate like bad colds, and

sky that swiftly becomes enveloped by a fluffy cylindrical shape

shares a particular love for the Southwest landscape but also

Dobrowner admits, “If I’m going to go, let me go like this.”

whose underside is bright and utopic, shedding light in the far

inclement weather, leading him to connect with acclaimed

—Hannah Hoel

distance onto flat plains. Just above this heavy blanket, clouds

storm chaser Roger Hill. In a recent talk at photo-eye Gallery,

threaten as they swirl to the right, going up and up like icing

Dobrowner noted, “Wherever weather is, is wherever we go,”

on a great big cupcake. The textures merge into a grey abyss

a motto that prompted trips to otherwise unexciting territory in

Mitch Dobrowner, Arm of God, archival pigment print, 14” x 21”, 2009

that flows down alongside in a smooth veil of wispy tethers—barely discernable rain and wind. Veil is a monochromatic version of Turner’s vast landscapes that blend light and dark, earth and sky into elemental amalgamations. Our distance from the storm is unfathomable except to recognize the tiny rows of black dots trimming the horizon as bushes. They may be great big trees, but from here size is impossible to gauge and anything relatively human scale is distinctly tiny. The sublime, as evoked by the Romantics—where nature is simultaneously beautiful and terrible— revisits Dobrowner’s viewer and promptly shuffles him back down to earth. Like most of Dobrowner’s titles, Veil is a cunning and playful description for something unnamable. Rather than go untitled, his simple phraseology turns the terrifying into an imaginative game of finding pictures in clouds. Pillar Cloud, which was shot in Lewistown, Montana, takes an arc of clouds culminating in a deluge of vertical rain and turns it into an architectural installation. Starship converts a quaint wooden fence and country house from a pastoral landscape SEPTEMBER


THE magazine | 53

THE magazine September 2013