The use of the camera as a faithful recorder of people and the events of their lives is the oldest use of the medium, making it the hardest photographic genre with which to make new or unique statements. Some would argue that documentary photography is an outmoded form that can no longer contribute significantly in our media dominated time. The practice of making photographs that are based only on light and form may have run its course but the need to know how things looked, or why things were arranged a certain way will always have a place. Documentary photographs acquire significance as the moment they describe recedes into history. Well seen and well-crafted documentary photographs will continue to demand that we ask ourselves why are things like this, how did they get that way and what does it mean. These questions prevent documentary photographs from being held in place by restraints of fashion or prevailing tastes.
Bob Hower has been making photographs for the better part of the past two decades. Throughout that time, he has remained true to a straight forward documentary approach and continues to produce images that transcend the sentiments of contemporary style. Never one to follow fashion or try to keep up with the latest dogmas, Bob Hower pursues his singular passion to record the technical and functional aspects of the industrial and marginal thoroughfares of the American landscape. In doing so he is able to combine his personal prejudice and the camera’s objectivity to produces images that express the ideals of probity and independence.
All of the photographs in the exhibition are in color and were made within the past few years in a variety of locations from Central Ohio to Northern New Jersey. Hower is most comfortable making photographs when he is on the road with a car full of equipment and no specific destination. The fascination of poking around old junkyards or sweet talking the night watchman at a steel mill for admission is as important as the resulting photographs. It is these elements of discovery and fascination that resound in his work, allowing the viewer to contemplate the power of a train speeding through a dense industrial landscape or muse about the consequences of ducks sharing the same waterways with steel mills.
Hower’s intentions are not to create a moral play with the industrial landscape as a back drop. Instead he is paying homage to the industry that spawned many of the objects of his affections. They include a 1948 Hudson automobile, a variety of tools and gadgets or just about anything made with style and integrity. At the same time, he is examining where we’ve been so that it might help to suggest where we should go.
Director, Light Work