Middlebury College Museum of Art

Exhibitions

Eliot Furness Porter: Selected Photographs from the Glen Canyon Portfolio

Eliot Porter, Dungeon Canyon
Eliot Furness Porter (American, 1901–1990), Dungeon Canyon. Glen Canyon. August 29, 1961 from Glen Canyon, 1961/1980, dye transfer print, 16 1/16 x 12 3/8 inches. Collection of Middlebury College Museum of Art. Gift of Jeremy Dworkin ’62 and B. D. Dworkin, South Londonderry, Vermont, 2013.023.10.

Born in 1901, Eliot Porter was a photographer who worked with the Sierra Club to create photographs and publications that argued for the conservation of nature.

Porter’s photographs of Glen Canyon originally appeared in The Place No One Knew: Glen Canyon on the Colorado, a coffee table book published by the Sierra Club in 1963. Creating an elegy for a canyon that was about to be submerged due to the construction of a large dam on the Colorado River, Porter hoped to raise awareness about the tension between nature and technology. In the book, he paired his photographs with quotes from naturalist thinkers, philosophers, and activists, including Henry David Thoreau and Loren Eiseley.

Made using the dye transfer process, Porter’s photographs departed from the grand black-and-white vistas typical of landscape photography, as seen in the work of his contemporary, Ansel Adams. Instead, Porter focused on nature’s details, colors, and patterns. In doing so, Porter revolutionized the field of nature photography, as we know it. His images were bold, different, and subtly radical. Scholar Rebecca Solnit writes, “[Porter’s] photographs have come to embody what many people look for and value in the outdoors.”

Sophia Green ’14.5