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Artist's Statement

John Anderson began photographing in his teens under the tutelage of master photographers Arthur Bacon and Bob Kolbrenner, and then later studied with Ansel Adams at the house in the Carmel Highlands. After graduating from Bennington College in 1981, John wrote, produced and directed films which debuted at the Cannes Film Festival and Sundance Film Festival.

Of his work, John says, “The wilderness that remains in the North Cascades and on the Olympic Peninsula is a doorway to another world. Its lush and overwhelming complexity, its harsh beauty, its alien remoteness immerse the visitor in an experience that awakens the chthonic soul. When I photograph in this mythic landscape, I fall into a kind of trance induced by the spirit of the place and the unique quality of light. I look until I am taken by a configuration or gesture of the land that elicits an emotional response. That’s the moment when I have to photograph and the challenge ensues to allow the image to pass through the equipment and process and emerge on the other side transformed yet hopefully retaining its original force. If I succeed, something of that other world resonates within the abstracted image.”

“My hope is that these photographs will act as icons for a world which is beyond the grip of human management, beyond the progression of measured time, and even beyond our ability to fully understand it. A world that is truly wild. Only in such a world can we see the forces which have given shape to our psyche and which continue to live within the soul of each of us. These places are literally timeless in the sense that the date at which they were taken has no meaning except in the astonishment that such places still exist today on this over populated planet. I have chosen photography as my medium because of it’s kinship with reality and because it abstracts the subject from our everyday perception. This allows us to better see the stark alien boldness of this dark and shining wilderness which pulsates with life just beyond the confines of our man-made imaginings.”

Exhibitions & Awards

1976:  Silver Image Gallery, Washington 
1977:  Tacoma Art Museum, Washington 
1981:  Bennington College Art Gallery, Vermont 
1982:  Frail Thoughts  Cannes Film Festival Selection
1988:  Avalon  Sundance Film Festival Selection
1999:  Blue Heron Art Gallery, Washington 
2000:  Published  The Myth of Language 
2003:  Gallery 070, Washington 
2003:  Husted Gallery, Washington 
2004:  Gallery 070, Washington 
2005:  The Other Roadside Attraction, Washington                      
2005:  The Photographic Image Gallery, Oregon 
2005:  The Ansel Adams Gallery at MUMM, California 
2005:  Gallery 070, Washington
2006:  Wall Space Gallery, Washington
2007:  Linda Hodges Gallery, Washington
2007:  PONCHO Auction Merit Aritst, Washington
2008:  B&W Magazine Merit Award, Washington
2008:  VAA Commissioned Aritst, Vashon, Washington
2009:  B&W Magazine Merit Award, Washington
2009:  Linda Hodges Gallery, Washington

2010:  Wall Space Gallery, Washington
2011:  Linda Hodges Gallery; Washington
2013:  Linda Hodges Gallery, Washington
2014:  Brick Wall Gallery, Washington
2015:  Linda Hodges Gallery, Washington

From the forward to the book Landscape and Desire:

Ever since I was a child it seemed to me that the wilderness was my true home. I was separated from it by circumstances which were beyond my control. School, Jobs, social and personal obligations, all bound me to a life apart from my true desire. The forests, the desert, the mountains, the wild night sky, the wind- these were what I longed for, what I dreamt about, what I planned for in my free moments. Regular excursions to the mountains and wild coastlines only whetted my appetite for more. Eventually I began to photograph what it was that drew me to these places - the beauty, the complexity, the grandeur, the fantastic exuberance of life and and the still solemnity of death. In a very real sense these landscape photographs are about longing and desire.

Later in life, I learned that the ancient Greeks actually thought of the shifting mists and clouds, the sounds of a running brook and and the dappled light through the trees, as nymphs, dryads, natural deities, or even what they called the genius or spirit of the place. While it can be engaging to think of them this way, we need no such anthropomorphism to revel in the beauty of mist moving through trees. There is no need to turn it into something less alien. In fact the alien-ness of it is what many of us are drawn to. We can exult in the titanic nature and more-than-human aspect of a storm in the North Cascades without resorting to human-centric metaphors.

The other-ness, the wild, the uncontrolled; these are the real issues when it comes to the meaning of wilderness. A managed wilderness isn't. As animals we need to experience a world that is greater than ourselves in order for our psyches to expand and develop. Our senses evolved in such a world and without it they deaden and atrophy. My photographs are an attempt to point the way to such a world. An attempt to act as sign posts pointing in the right direction.

One can often look up from city streets, or from pleasant suburban yards, or even from rural "green" areas, and catch ones' breath at the beauty, violence and enormity of what's happening in the mountains. Torrential rains, cataclysmic winds, sublime plays of light and color; all happening impossibly far away. We've insulated ourselves too long from the variance and the unexpected of the wild. We've buried ourselves miles deep in managed and manicured land. We've cut ourselves off from the environment which shaped us, which gave birth to us as a species. No wonder we long for the tumult and craziness of art, the sublime in music, dance or a line drawing, the uplifting of emotions in a novel and the unexpected in conceptual or performance art.

Yes, the wild can be found in the human heart and psyche precisely because of where our heart and psyche evolved. The wilderness is our mind's primordial sea; our true home. If these photographs can in some small way return us to that world; if they can remind us of what we long for; if they can awaken desire, then they will have succeeded beyond my wildest dreams.

I must thank all of the friends who I have dragged through mud, drenching rains, piercing cold, endless miles on steep mountainsides, and survived hours and hours of mind numbing driving while I slept peacefully in the passenger seat. To these generous souls (especially Carolyn, Ric and James) who have lent their good cheer and companionship through some trying situations - I owe a great deal of gratitude. Thank you.