Fascinated by the extensive journals of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, photographer Greg Mac Gregor embarked on a journey in their footsteps across the United States to capture with his camera the contemporary legacy of the explorers’ historic 1804-1806 expedition. Mac Gregor’s stunning visual chronicle will be on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art from December 11, 2004 - February 6, 2005, as part of a citywide bicentennial celebration of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
Lewis and Clark Revisited: A Trail in Modern Day, Photographs by Greg Mac Gregor, on view in the Julien Levy Gallery, presents sixty of the artist’s black-and-white photographs of sites along the Corps of Discovery’s original route, made over a six-year period from 1993-1999. Excerpts from the explorers’ original journal writings about their encounters and impressions are included, paralleling Mac Gregor’s own focus on the human presence in the landscape and his documentation of the American West’s transformation over the past 200 years.
"The photographs speak more to the legacy of the expedition," said Mac Gregor. "It was important for me to get back to the locations mentioned in the journals but once there, I looked for contemporary overlay on that historic site. There have been excellent photographic documents in the past. However in each of these treatments the route of the expeditions was depicted as it looked when the captains passed through. In order to do something different, I chose to seek out as much as possible those places which exhibited change."
Mac Gregor traveled Lewis and Clark’s entire route twice and made over 2000 negatives. "For inspiration, before each outing I would read my favorite passages from the journals, to help keep a fresh eye and attitude," he said.
"Greg Mac Gregor’s journey through eleven states does not attempt to recreate the uncharted Western landscape as it appeared to Lewis and Clark," said Katherine Ware, Curator of Photographs. "By recording the contemporary imprint of power lines, bridges and convenience stores, he presents an unflinching view of the development of the American landscape over two centuries."
Mac Gregor is professor of photography at California State University, Hayward. He received a Master of Arts in photography from San Francisco State University in 1970 and a Master of Science in physics from The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in 1964. He has taught both photography and physics at the university level and worked as an astrophysicist. His work is in the permanent collection of over twenty major museums including The Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Bibliothèque nationale de France.
The exhibition is organized by Smith Kramer Fine Art Services and is coordinated in Philadelphia by Katherine Ware, Curator of Photographs. It is one of a series of events and exhibitions commemorating Lewis and Clark’s quest for the long sought Northwest Passage, the centerpiece being Lewis & Clark: The National Bicentennial Exhibition at The Academy of Natural Sciences (Nov. 6, 2004-March 20, 2005).
The book Lewis and Clark Revisited: A Photographer’s Trail, by Greg Mac Gregor (2003) accompanies the exhibition. The 199-page book ($50 cloth, $29.95 paper), published by the Center for Documentary Studies in association with the University of Washington Press, is available in the Museum Store, by calling (800) 329-4856 or via the Museum’s website, www.philamuseum.org.