Emmet Gowin has an eye such as few humans are gifted with. Fortunately he also has a camera, so we can share what he sees.
Most great photographers develop a certain style and concentrate on a particular range of subjects, finally achieving mastery within that range. Gowin is equally expert with the human body (nude or clothed, male or female, young or old, alive or dead), the inhabited landscape (rural or urban, American or European) and the natural landscape (serene or exploding). Whether he shoots from close up or way, way back, it doesn't matter: The man is a camera.
Sixty-six of his photographs, seven in color and the rest silver prints, are on view at the Corcoran. They will break the hearts of many visitors who also aspire to serious photography, for Gowin gives us no slack. Many of them he calls "snapshots." He loves snapshots, he says. Yeah, sure. So did Matthew Brady.
Gowin is lucky in having a wife who's a superb model. Their collaboration has produced, for instance, the best expressions I've ever seen of the peak of beauty and sensuousness a woman reaches in the late stages of pregnancy. But Mount Saint Helens didn't pose for him, and of the hundreds of photographs I've seen of the eruption, none compares with Gowin's record of the awful fury that rent that landscape, and of the awful stillness that followed.
You think you've seen great pictures of peasants and vineyards and ancient villages and all that stuff? Wait till you see Gowin's.
Photograph reproduction in a newspaper is too coarse to permit proper rendering of any of his scenes, in which detail and shading are as critical as composition, but every gallery visitor will want the splendidly printed catalogue, which the Corcoran is selling at the astonishing price of $2.50. PHOTOGRAPHS BY EMMET GOWIN -- Through November 13 at the Corcoran. Open 10 to 4:30 Tuesday through Sunday, Thursdays to 9:30.