The American West has been so over photographed, it can seem like a plastic, prefabricated destination. Cody Cobb’s first solo exhibition at Seattle’s Foster and White Gallery, Eons, was an unconventional take on American landscape photography – reviving a genre that too-often feels like it’s been done to death.
For almost a decade, the Seattle-based photographer has split his time working as a 3D animator for major motion pictures and Emmy Award-winning TV shows and wandering the vestiges of the American West in search of unexpected angles of light, geometry, and visual strangeness. Cobb makes calm yet unsettling large-scale images of mountains, rainforests, sand dunes, and other natural wonders that combine his eye for design with the legacy of American landscape photography. Produced with no post-processing or digital manipulation, Eons transformed these familiar scenes into something new.
West, 7, 2017,for example, turns California’s Andrean Sand Dunes into calculated splotches of light and shape. An ombre-blue sky hovers above a swatch of what appears to be silky black sand interrupted by a sliver of pink. At first glance, it looks like two kinds of sand – a dune peeling back its layers – but it’s actually a pool of sun lighting up an otherwise shadowed mountain of sand before it had fully risen. In Island 1, Hawaii, 2011,a piece of a rainbow juts across a reflection of the sky above an rippling body of water. It breaks from rainbow clichés dominating calendars and Instagram feeds, yet retains their intended glory.
While American landscape photography has been historically tinged with a tendency to capture, stake claim, or make the land a souvenir for the rest of the world to see, Cobb’s practice is humbler. For Cobb, it’s not about conquering the wild and majestic; instead, he submits to a wilderness larger than us all.