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EMMET GOWIN: AUTHENTIC

Totally independent of all art movements, since the 1960s American photographer Emmet Gowin has been building an intimist, poetical oeuvre, a kind of tribute to the beauty of the world and the people he loves.
Free and intimate, his photographs of his family—his wife Edith, "the guiding thread and redemptive experience of my life", and their children—transcend the family chronicle to form a visual symphony in which each note is an instant of revelation, of precious exchange between two beings. As Gowin confided to Laurence Cornet in their interview of last March, "Edith is much more important [in my work] than I am," in that she can hold on to that instant and receive the photographer's gaze: "You are there and you are accepted. . . . I don't want to steal something from people. I let people decide. Diane Arbus said exactly the opposite."

A lesson in living
That intense, emotionally charged gaze has also been transposed to landscape. Devoid of sensationalism, his aerial photos and their luminous blacks and whites are meditations on the beauty of nature—even nature ravaged by human activity.
For Emmet Gowin every photography lesson comes with a lesson in living. Like the one his university teacher, guide and mentor Harry Callahan gave him one day after looking through one of Gowin's series: "I wish I had taken them all myself. Of course there was a time when I could have taken them myself, but it's gone and it will be that way for you." We shouldn't feel threatened by this, says Gowin: "Anything you take is yours."

Photo above: Edith, Chincoteague Island (Virginia), 1967. Copyright Emmet Gowin.

• Monograph Emmet Gowin, Éditions Xavier Barral, 48 €.
• The Emmet Gowin Retrospective took place at the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation in Paris from May to July 2014.

For "You are there, and you are accepted", Laurence Cornet's interview with Emmet Gowin, see Camera 6, pp. 38–41. 

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