January 28 - March 11, 2017
A 30-year Retrospective of Peter Brown's Photography of the High Plains
Essay by Volker Eisele
“Peter Brown - High Plains Song” is a survey of over 30 years of Brown’s explorations on the relatively unknown and underappreciated landscape and habitat: the prairies and high desert of the American Great Plains. The High Plains are the western portion of these ecosystems, a land that historically has been arid and difficult to cultivate.
Walt Whitman wrote that the prairie was North America’s “characteristic landscape,” and while less stunning at first sight than places like Yellowstone or Yosemite, it slowly fills the aesthetic sense and geologically precedes the rest.
The epic grandiosity of this landscape has fascinated Peter Brown: the panoramic endlessness of the sky, the rhythmic expanses of fields and grasslands, the quality of light which verges from near blinding to the softest hues -- colors that are nuanced but may encompass an entire spectrum.
There are iconic images that haunt the visitor: roads and furrows, converging on the horizon with precise geometry, bisecting the world into heaven and earth. The heavens present an ever changing spectacle of moods, from clear blue skies with feathery clouds to black colored thunder storms to flaming red sunsets.
Water is very precious in this arid area, where most of the water for irrigation is coming from the Ogallala aquifer, which is slowly being depleted. The people who settled here about 150 years ago have waged a valiant battle to convert this land into fertile soil, but with no lasting success. There now is a conservation effort taking hold to let part of the land revert to its pre-existing natural state.
Peter Brown’s photographs capture the hardscrabble existence of the people, their tenacity and simplicity of life, their cultural heritage that encompasses Indian roots, pioneer spirit, religious affiliations, high school sports or the joy of small town life.
Peter Brown’s images are more than archival documentations, they reflect an emotional involvement, a deep admiration and love for his subject.
Peter Brown’s camera fuses reportage with poetry.