Mitch Dobrowner: Still Earth | Storms — on view at photo-eye Gallery in Santa Fe through January 24, 2015 — features nature in all her glory. And yet in many ways, Dobrowner’s landscapes of the American West look like set pieces. The clarity, the precise lighting, the ambiguity of scale and distance, and the overriding stillness contribute to his work feeling constructed, which makes it all the more engaging. But in truth, Dobrowner’s black-and-white pictures of rugged mesas and mountainscapes interspersed amid desolate expanses of desert are real, though they have a timeless quality that taps into the realm of the sublime. Not unlike the sense of awe and wonder one recalls from photographs by Ansel Adams and Minor White, Dobrowner’s pictures invite contemplation.
In this smallish show of 17 pigment prints in various sizes, there are recognizable landmarks on display, such as El Capitan and Devil’s Kitchen, Utah, as well as unheralded places likely appreciated only by ranchers and farmers. Storm and Last Light, Kansas, depicts a large swath of ranchland being ravaged by a downpour on the right; on the left, the sky is clearing and sunshine streams through a break in the clouds – much like a 19th-century Thomas Cole painting portraying the forces of nature, symbolic of good and evil. In Hailstorm, New Mexico, the fast-approaching weather phenomenon is both gorgeous in its magnitude and unsettling in its destructive capabilities. At 15 X 50 inches, it’s the largest print in the show. Dobrowner is decidedly a storm chaser, well traveled in pursuit of such fleeting weather-driven moments. Photographs taken in Nebraska, Kansas, and California are also featured in the exhibit, while other storm images from various places across the country can be found in his recently published monograph Storms, by Aperture.