Fieldwork


These photographs depict peculiar sculptural arrangements I find by chance - ordinary places where little dramas unfold. While Fieldwork refers to the observation and gathering of raw data, it also suggests rough fortifications built from material at hand, like brush and rocks. From ancient, monumental stone circles in an English field to dried grass after snow melt, these are silent pictures that leave the viewer completely alone in the landscape. They were made in the precarious seasons of late fall and early spring, when everything hangs between life, death, and life again. These are the bones of life laid bare, when color is reduced and branches are left exposed. My photographs have the scratchy, crosshatched look of etchings or pencil drawings so the prints look hand-built, stick by stick. They are printed in platinum-palladium to fully exploit the tonal subtleties of both subject and medium, using traditional photographic practice to describe the grey areas of marginal landscapes.

Fieldwork was made from inside photographic tradition, using the vocabulary and grammar of the medium’s formal history. I used the serendipity of a walk to find meaning in the quietest seasons, when evidence of life is the hardest to find yet it persists, and is all the more hopeful in its tenacity. Above all, these pictures are about the beauty of mystery and the mystery of beauty.

Reviews

Mary Abbe, Star Tribune - May 18, 2007
"In 19 monochrome photos of modest landscapes, Minneapolis photographer Beth Dow meditates on often-overlooked surroundings -- small heaps of worksite gravel that sprawl like a ridge of low hills, nets of dead vines engulfing scrubby river-bottom trees, a circle of immense stones punctuating a bucolic British landscape, an ancient willow with a broken limb, bare tree limbs scraping the sky. All of her photos are taken in what she calls "the precarious seasons of late fall and early spring, when everything hangs between life, death, and life again.

Printed on paper coated with a specially mixed platinum-palladium solution, the images are unusually luminous and detailed, yet still sketchy. Resembling delicate etchings, they seem truly drawn with light, which is the original meaning of the word "photo-graphy." By finding poetry in such humble, neglected and utilitarian vistas, Dow affirms the value and vitality of the ordinary."

Vince Aletti, The New Yorker - December 3, 2007
"This photographer's New York début is smartly understated—modest but memorable. Dow's images of woods and fields nod to the landscape tradition reaching from Eugène Atget to Robert Adams, and their quiet beauty is underlined by the richness of her platinum-palladium prints. Dealing with the overfamiliar subject of man's rude intrusion into the natural world, she's not always subtle—stacked logs and felled limbs abound—but she knows when to step back and allow an image to breathe. Her pictures of a lone tree in a row of stumps and a pile of smoking stubble under a sad gray sky aren't just taken; they're felt."

Broken Tree
Broken Tree
Broken Tree
Burning Stubble
Broken Tree
Seven Stumps
Broken Tree
Brush Piles
Broken Tree
Wood Pile
Broken Tree
Wood Pile and Road
Broken Tree
Rubble
Broken Tree
Den
Broken Tree
Brush
Broken Tree
Stone Circle
Broken Tree
Campfire
Broken Tree
Stones and Tree
Broken Tree
Two Holes
Broken Tree
Sling
Broken Tree
Hole
Broken Tree
Wind
Broken Tree
Grove
Broken Tree
Three Trees
Broken Tree
Treetops
Broken Tree
Willow
Broken Tree
Trees with Snow
Broken Tree
Burning Field
Broken Tree
Stones and Clouds
Broken Tree
Oaks and Poplars
Broken Tree
Hay
Broken Tree
Lake
Broken Tree
Clump of Trees
Broken Tree
Gravel
Broken Tree
Ruts
Broken Tree
4 Life
Broken Tree
Bags
Broken Tree
Looped Branch
Broken Tree
Mulch
Broken Tree
Ring
Broken Tree
Sticks
Broken Tree
Strand
Broken Tree
Bales
Broken Tree
Bonfire
Broken Tree
Door
Broken Tree
Quarry
Broken Tree
Row
Broken Tree
Saplings
Broken Tree
Shreds
Broken Tree
Sign
Broken Tree
Stick Piles
Broken Tree
Stump House
Broken Tree
Three Rocks
Broken Tree
Circle Left
Broken Tree
Circle Right