Harley Cowan, A Cathedral of Science
Portland Art Museum Photography Council’s
Brown Bag Lunch Talk Series
Wednesday, May 16th, 2018 at Noon
Portland Art Museum
The Whitsell Auditorium
1219 SW Park Avenue, Portland, OR 97205
503 226 2811
Cost: Free to the public.
“I travel to historically significant but largely unrecorded sites in the Pacific Northwest in order to create photography eligible for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) and the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER). HABS was established in 1933 as a joint venture between the National Park Service, the American Institute of Architects, and the Library of Congress as a way to preserve American built history. HAER was added in 1969 to record American industry and infrastructure.
“There was a time when photographers established themselves with work produced for a private or federal documentation program such as the Farm Security Administration or Works Progress Administration. Unlike other federal programs following the Great Depression, HABS/HAER are on-going and active today. They continue to follow strict guidelines for black & white, large format, film photography. As a contemporary photographer, it is an intriguing starting point.
“I grew up in Richland, Washington next to the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. B Reactor, brainchild of physicist Enrico Fermi, built in 1944 as part of the Manhattan Project, was the world’s first full-scale nuclear reactor which produced plutonium for the Trinity Test and the Fat Man bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. Arguably the greatest engineering feat of the 20th Century, and the most terrible, a Promethian altar of science, it has long held a fascination. In 2017, I was granted four days of access to photograph the reservation and the reactor.”
Harley Cowan is a photographer based in Portland, Oregon. He is also a practicing architect. His interest in large format photography led to a research fellowship in architectural heritage documentation and preservation with work in the Library of Congress. Cowan won the 2018 Access Award from the Vernacular Architecture Forum. He has lectured before the Society of Architectural Historians at their 2017 conference in Victoria, B.C., DoCoMoMo_Oregon, University of Oregon’s Historic Preservation Program, and the Pacific Northwest Preservation Field School. His work is included in SAH Archipedia, an online encyclopedia of historic sites, and his Manhattan Project portfolio is presently in the Pacific Northwest Viewing Drawers at Blue Sky Gallery in Portland and the “PDX 30” group show at LightBox Gallery in Astoria.
A graduate of Washington State University, Cowan is a member of the Professional Advisory Board for WSU’s School of Design & Construction. Early in his career, he spent six years working in nuclear industry. His studies also took him to Far Eastern State Technical University in Vladivostok, Russia.