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Emmet Gowin

The Nevada Test Site

Oct 25 – Dec 21, 2019
New York

The Yucca Flat is a Nevada desert drainage basin where more than a thousand nuclear tests were carried out between 1951 and 1992, making it the most irradiated nuclear-based spot on Earth, about an hour from Las Vegas.

Exhibition Details

Emmet Gowin
The Nevada Test Site
Oct 25 – Dec 21, 2019


540 West 25th Street
Third Floor
New York

Presented in collaboration with Pace/MacGill


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Above: Emmet Gowin, Subsidence Craters, Looking Southeast From Area 8, Yucca Flat, Nevada Test Site, 1996, hand toned gelatin silver print, image, 13.75” x 14.75” (35 cm x 37 cm), paper, 16” x 20” inches (40.5 cm x 50.8 cm) © Emmet Gowin
In this exhibition, Gowin presents staggering aerial photographs of this powerfully evocative place.

The images show blast areas where sand has been transformed to glass, valleys pockmarked with hundreds of craters, trenches that protected soldiers from blasts, areas used to bury radioactive waste, and debris left behind following tests conducted as deep as five thousand feet below the Earth’s surface. Together, these stunning, unsettling views unveil environmental travesties on a grand scale.

Gowin remains the only photographer granted official and sustained access to the Nevada Test Site.  Emmet has said of this project "...my experience photographing the Nevada Test Site in 1996-97 left me at a turning point. Later I came to realize that one cannot study industrial scale agriculture, excessive water usage, and the building and testing of the atomic bomb without being changed. Three visits to the Nevada Test Site were all I could endure."

The Nevada Test Site stands as a testament to the harm we inflict on our surroundings, the importance of bearing witness, and the possibilities for aesthetic redemption and a more hopeful future.

Emmet Gowin

Emmet Gowin (b. 1941, Danville, Va.) received a BFA in Graphic Design from the Richmond Professional Institute (now Virginia Commonwealth University) in 1965 and an MFA in Photography from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1967.

While at RISD, Gowin studied with photographer Harry Callahan, who became one of his mentors and greatest influences. Following his marriage to Edith Morris in 1964, Gowin began making memorable portraits of her as well as his family members. In addition to his work in portraiture, Gowin has explored landscape and aerial photography since the 1980s, documenting sites in the Czech Republic, Mexico, the Middle East, Japan, and the United States. This series addresses concerns over, among other issues, the global impact of pivot irrigation, natural resource mining, and military occupation and weapons testing on the environment.

For nearly four decades, Gowin’s work has been included in exhibitions in the U.S. and abroad. His solo shows include those at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1971) and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (1983). Gowin’s first midcareer retrospective was organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and later traveled to seven venues (1990-93); his first European retrospective appeared at the Espace Photographie Marie de Paris (1992). The Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., presented a traveling exhibition that included eight total venues across the country (2002-04).

Throughout his career, Gowin has received numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship (1974), two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships (1977, 1979), the Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts from the State of Pennsylvania (1983), the Friends of Photography Peer Award (1992), and a Pew Fellowship in the Arts (1993). Gowin taught in the Visual Arts Program at Princeton University from 1973 until his retirement in 2010, and was honored with the President's Award for Distinguished Teaching in 1997.

Gowin’s work can be found in museum collections worldwide, including the Art Institute of Chicago; the Cleveland Museum of Art; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Tokyo Museum of Art; and the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.

Monographs published on Gowin’s work include Emmet Gowin/Photographs (1976); Emmet Gowin: Photographs, 1966-1983 (1983); Emmet Gowin/Photographs: This Vegetable Earth Is But A Shadow (1990); Emmet Gowin: Aerial Photographs (1998); Emmet Gowin: Changing the Earth (2002); Mariposas Nocturnas – Edith in Panama (2006) and Emmet Gowin: Nevada Test Site (2019).

Gowin lives and works in Newtown, Pa.