FotoFest Exhibitions

Eirik Johnson

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Sawdust Mountain, 2005-2008

Eirik Johnson observes communities in the U.S. Pacific Northwest that have been suffering for decades. Since 2005 Johnson has photographed throughout Oregon, Washington, and Northern California, capturing the tenuous relationship between industries dependent on natural resources and the communities they support. For nearly 150 years, timber had been the leading industry in the region, but the adverse environmental impact of these declining industries has been increasingly at odds with the contemporary ideal of sustainability. In Johnson’s words, “Homes lie vacant and storefronts are closed indefinitely. Town streets are empty other than the occasional teenagers who wander with no particular destination. They recall a young Kurt Cobain who spent his high school years drifting and struggling for purpose in the mill town of Aberdeen, Washington. An eerie, unhurried mood pervades these communities as they search for their own refashioned sense of purpose.” Through landscapes, portraiture, and still-lifes, Johnson has revealed a place imbued with an uncertain future and communities no longer built upon the riches of massive old-growth forests.


Boston-based photographer Eirik Johnson is an assistant professor of photography at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston. His work has been exhibited at spaces including the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago; the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle; and the Aperture Foundation in New York. He has received numerous awards including the “Santa Fe Prize” from the Santa Fe Center for Photography in 2005 and a William J. Fulbright Grant for travel to Peru in 2000. His work is in the permanent collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Seattle Art Museum, and the George Eastman House, Rochester, New York. His first monograph Borderlands, published by Twin Palms Press, was named one of the best books of 2005 by Photo Eye magazine. His second monograph, Sawdust Mountain, was published by Aperture in 2009. Johnson is represented by Rena Bransten Gallery in San Francisco and G. Gibson Gallery in Seattle. Please visit for further information.