Doug Stockdale's Singular Images

April 5, 2008

Frank Gohlke

Filed under: Photography — Doug Stockdale @ 1:41 am

Boxborough Station, Boxborough, MA – from 42.30 North: A Line on the Land, 2002 photograph is copyright of the photographer Frank Gohlke

While working on my earlier question of What is a great landscape photograph?, I came across Frank Gohlke ( (yes, no direct link, still some bugs in the ‘updated & improved’ WordPress blogging software, grrrrr), who is a self professed ‘Leading figure in American landscape photography’. Come on, that’s what it says on his web site….

Photograph is copyright of the photographer, Frank Gohlke

Okay on to my point, because at least he writes some interesting stuff: Some excepts From Photography and Place:

Here Frank writes aout the potential difference between a place and a landscape; A place is not a landscape; places are contained within landscapes. Place is a possibility wherever humans linger, but it’s not inevitable. Sometimes we just occupy space. Places can be created intentionally or as a side effect of other actions with other intentions. Place seems to be more likely to come into being the longer we stay put, but many nomadic cultures roam in landscapes whose minutest features are named, recognized, and given a place in the story of a people and a world.

And some more: Place has something to do with memory. The evidence of the actions of human beings in a specific locale constitutes a physical version of memory. In the visible traces of their passage I read the investment of desire, hope, ambition, sweat, toil, and love of people who set this location apart from raw space. I don’t need to identify the origin of every feature to sense its significance. The intentions of the inhabitants may be opaque to me; I only need to be aware that intentions were acted on here.

Like I said, he writes some interesting thoughts about both the landscape and place.  Also to note, he has also been awarded two Guggenheim Fellowships and two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. hmmm, that’s not too shabby either.

Best regards, Doug



  1. Ah, Frank Gohlke, a name I remember from the 1970s and my first burrowings into the unseen world of industrial landscape and new topographics (unseen and undocumented in the UK at the time anyway).
    I’d forgotten about Frank, so thanks for bringing him back for me Doug. I’ve always really liked his style and approach – he seemed an amalgam of so many influences, very American, but with a lot of European as well – if that makes sense!
    His writing about place and landscape is resonant of my own interest in the subject. I draw the comparison between two landscapes I’ve experienced to a degree in recent years, England and New Zealand. Whereas the landscape of New Zealand is undoubtedly beautiful and inspiring, English landscape has a much greater sense of ‘place’ through its long period of habitation and alteration by the hand of man.

    Comment by Roy — April 6, 2008 @ 3:25 pm

  2. I love Frank Gohlke’s work. His new book, Accommodating Nature, is truly wonderful and relatively inexpensive to boot. There are some essays in the book that will probably interest you, very much on the same topic as the one you’ve excerpted above.

    By the way Doug, I wanted to mention that I’ve enjoyed going through your photo galleries. I grew up in Joshua Tree, CA, and seeing your photos from Riverside are quite affecting. As always with art, we bring with us our own context, and in this case, the context is a powerful one for me.

    Comment by dalton — April 7, 2008 @ 4:41 pm

  3. Thanks, I have found myself re-reading some of Franks writings about Place and Landscape as well as looking again at his images. I have a feeling that I will be tracking down his latest book ‘Accommodating Nature’.

    Comment by Doug Stockdale — April 7, 2008 @ 5:56 pm

  4. I just saw some of Frank Gohlke’s work at Phoenix Art Museum. I hadn’t seen much of his work before this visit, but was very impressed.

    Comment by Katie — May 24, 2010 @ 7:27 pm

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