Eirik Johnson’s quietly theatrical photographs carry the sense of a way of life and work that is on the cusp of slipping away. For four years, Seattle-born Johnson travelled through Oregon, Washington and northern California, around the former boomtowns that were built on the now-declining salmon and timber industries.
He describes the resulting series, published as Sawdust Mountain, as “a melancholy love letter of sorts, my own personal ramblings”. Many of Johnson’s works are informed by the epic, picturesque 19th-century landscapes of Carleton Watkins, who took some of the earliest known images of the region. In others, his use of space and colour pays homage to several living photographers.
Johnson’s images are rendered all the more intense by his palette, through which he uses the region’s faded light to emphasise the down-at-heel tones of the man-made environment. His muted colours are a counterpoint to William Eggleston’s photographs of the American south, whose “harsh bright light and colours … seemed like the mirror opposite of what I saw present in the northwest,” says Johnson.