Eirik Johnson

Raised in Seattle and a UW grad, photographer Eirik Johnson today teaches in Boston and is known for collections including Borderlands, about the neglected, forgotten, trash-strewn fringes of the city. His new Sawdust Mountain (Aperture, $50) chronicles the decline of the timber industry—or rather, its bleak aftermath—back here in the Northwest. In this selection from the book we see the depopulated, clear-cut remnants of our region’s century-long logging boom. There are no towering Doug firs or heroic woodsmen left, no quaint images like those of frontier photographer Darius Kinsey (whom Johnson acknowledges as an influence). Along the Sauk and Columbia rivers, over on the Olympic Peninsula, old-growth timber has been replaced by weedy, fast-growing breeds, bioengineered for swift harvest. The mills are closed and jobs are scarce. Empty buildings are used for flea markets, or to sell Star Wars memorabilia; most of the young people have moved to the city. Yet at the same time, natural habitats are being restored and dams removed (including that on the Elwha River, after years of litigation). Johnson’s Sawdust Nation isn’t post-apocalyptic but post-industrial, since logging (like fishing) will never return to its old scale. His images are depressing but not hopeless. The landscape may not be poised for recovery, but it’s ready for the next uncertain thing—new uses, though surely with fewer users. Johnson portrays those who remain with stoic, mossy fortitude. (Closed Sun. & Mon.) BRIAN MILLER

April 23-May 30, 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m., 2009

 
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