Rowell devolved to kitsch

  Dear HCN,

The wording of your accolade to the late Galen Rowell (HCN, 9/2/02: Farewell to a great mountain photographer) was misleading. In recent years, his "transcendental approach to capturing the natural world" meant descending from fine art downward, past popular art into the dubious world of kitsch. His Mountain Light Gallery in Bishop, Calif., shows him imitating and repeating himself again and again, with dozens of similar images, most of them showing mountain peaks dawn-lighted by unnatural digitized colors, including garish oranges, shocking pinks and nauseating purples. Certainly, these are not photographs of "the natural world." They are not "seemingly impossible photographs," but just plain impossible and unnatural. It is not unfair to call his recent work Day-Glo Digital.

Towards the end, he became, in the words of Somerset Maugham, like "an old painter whom the desire for commercial success had made false to the genius of his youth."

Tom Clayton

Bridgeport, California
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