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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

REVILED BEAUTY: Photographs of the Columbia River Gorge, 2006-2009

Back a few weeks when snow paralyzed a significant portion of Portland, a spare contingent of Portland Art Museum staff managed to open the facility’s doors on time and kept it running until reinforcements managed to straggle in. Their heroic efforts afforded me an opportunity to take in the WILD BEAUTY photo exhibition in relative solitude.

I’d been working at establishing a relationship with the gorge over the past couple of years… oh screw it.

…maybe it would be more accurate to say that, like some shallow, materialistic paparazzi, I’d been stalking the gorge with my camera, hoping to capture an intimate or private moment (say maybe a nipple slip) so it was an unexpected bonanza to find myself peeking into the equivalent of a childhood photo album.

The thing is, the pictures were really beautiful, and seemed to become more beautiful as it became evident how difficult the early art of photography was to practice, but the unspoken commentary that I began to hear was the proud whispering of entrepreneurial immigrants boasting of their remarkable feats of exploitation.

It was an odd feeling. I felt proud to be a member of a species so clever as to be able to bury Celilo Falls under a captive river, so clever as to be able to skim power from descending water, so clever as to be able to create infrastructure that doubles as art, but also, I felt like a dick – like wanting nothing so much as to ‘do it’ only to find myself later (and counter intuitively) mourning the loss of innocence.

The Columbia River gorge is still beautiful. We have a ways to go before we start sucking so much water out of it that it starts to flow backwards like some forsaken California river. But we should be mindful that come the next ice age, the tables will turn and any of our kind that are left (how’s that for optimism?) will be scoured out by glacier spawned floods that would impress even Noah.

Anyway, maybe someday, if Wild Beauty the Sequel comes out, I hope its editors might see fit to include a portrait of the gorge as I have come to know it.

Columbia River from I-84 – close to the Corbett exit - 01-11-2009

Oneonta Gorge - 02-18-2007

Vista House Lights from I-84 viewpoint – 01-11-2009

Vista House looking suspiciously like a Cylon – 09-16-2006
I suppose if you were tasked with crowning the Columbia River Gorge with a giant toilet facility, you could do a lot worse than this.

Beacon Rock – 08-04-2007

Bonneville Dam from Table Mt. – 04-01-2007

Columbia River in bondage – 01-13-2008

Beacon Rock from Bonneville Dam – 01-13-2008

Eagle Creek Trail – 01-01-2006

Columbia River – Looking West from under the Bridge of the Gods – 03-11-2007

Construction site near The Dalles Dam – 07-19-2008

Basalt cliffs – Washington Shore – Close to railroad tunnel #12 – 10-11-2008

From railroad tracks looking west – Washington shore – 10-11-2008

Fishing Platform – Washington shore – 10-11-2008

Near Hells Gate channel – 10-11-2008


  1. Oh, sure! Vista house lights from I-84 viewpoint..........that's what the Government wants us to believe.

  2. Trying one more time to see if I can finally comment. Let me know, ok?

    ~ C

  3. Really nice usual.



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