Joseph Glasgow

Artist's Statement


Romanticized in art and celebrated in song, the Columbia River is many things to many people: the stunning backdrop to a stylish life; the contaminated source of a family's dinner; an industrial thoroughfare; a recreational playground. The longest river in the West is among the nation's most abused. It is dammed along most of its length, and polluted by pulp mills, manufacturing, and nuclear plants. The formerly-abundant salmon are scarce, and development swallows the habitat along its banks.

For me, the Columbia River has been the ever-changing subject of a photographic survey that began in the mid-90's when I migrated from Pittsburgh to Vancouver, Washington. This was a transitional period for me. At the time, I was more firmly rooted in the tradition of street photography (as exemplified by the likes of Winogrand and Friedlander) than anything remotely resembling landscapes. Uninspired by the streets of Vancouver, though, I found myself drawn to the banks of the Columbia, where I discovered harmonious relationships among incongruous elements of romance and reality.

It was a transitional period for Vancouver as well. During the 90's, Vancouver experienced more growth than any other city in Washington. Over a period of ten years, I watched the riverfront of Vancouver change from a post-industrial wasteland to neighborhoods of condos and mcMansions. The last plywood factory in North America was dismantled, shipped to South America, and reassembled, to take advantage of the less stringent environmental standards. This pattern repeats itself east and west as new economies replace old.

Over the years this project has grown, taking me from the Grand Coulee Dam to Astoria where the river meets the sea. For me, the river is a window into Northwest culture. With each new place I visit, I learn more about the region, its history, and the social and environmental realities we face. The photos shown here are a selection of some of my favorites from this project.





Joseph Glasgow studied painting, design, and photography at the Cleveland Institute of Art (BFA), the New York Studio Program of the AICA, and the Rochester Institute of Technology. His black and white landscape photographs have been exhibited in numerous solo and group shows, and his work is in the permanent collections of the Portland Art Museum, the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin, and the Cleveland Institute of Art. He has been taking photographs for over 30 years, and since 1994 has been focusing on black and white landscape photographs of the Columbia River and environs.


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All content of this web site is © Joseph Glasgow 1996-2008