Harley Cowan

August 3 – August 30, 2019

Artist Talk, Friday, August 9, 6:30pm-7:30pm, followed by Reception, 7:30pm-8:30pm

The Manhattan Project

“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 New Deal programs following the Great Depression, there are three federal documentation programs which are on-going and active today. They continue to follow strict guidelines for black & white, large format, film photography. The Historic American Buildings Survey 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 preserve American built history. Historic American Engineering Record was added in 1969 to record American industry and infrastructure. The Historic American Landscapes Survey was created in 2000. As a contemporary photographer, I believe early practice within these programs provides a valuable foundation upon which to build.

“I grew up in Richland, Washington next to the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. B Reactor, brainchild of physicist Enrico Fermi, completed in 1944 as part of the Manhattan Project, was the world’s first full-scale nuclear reactor which produced plutonium for the Trinity Test at Los Alamos, New Mexico and the Fat Man bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. Arguably the greatest engineering feat of the 20th Century, and the most terrible, a Promethean altar of science, it has long held a fascination. Photo documentation first began in 2017, when I was granted a research fellowship and four days of access to the Hanford Reservation and B Reactor.”



Harley Cowan is a photographer based in Portland, Oregon. He is a Richland, Washington native. He is also a practicing architect. His interest in large format photography led to a research fellowship in heritage documentation and preservation with work in the Library of Congress. Earlier this year, Cowan was inducted into the Atomic Photographers Guild, an international collective of photographers founded in 1987, dedicated to making visible all aspects of the nuclear age. He is its 38thmember.

Cowan won the 2018 Access Award from the Vernacular Architecture Forum. He was a speaker for the 2018 Photography Council’s Brown Bag Lecture Series at the Portland Art Museum. He has lectured before University of Oregon’s Historic Preservation Program, DoCoMoMo Oregon, the Pacific Northwest Preservation Field School, and the Society of Architectural Historians at their 2017 conference in Victoria, B.C. In September of 2018, he was the Artist-in-Residence at Oregon Caves National Monument & Preserve.

His work is published in SAH Archipedia, an online encyclopedia of historic sites by the Society of Architectural Historians, and in print with the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation quarterly magazine This Place, Washington State University’s alumni quarterly Washington State Magazine, and the Atomic Heritage Foundation’s publication A Guide to the Manhattan Project in Washington State. His photography has been the subject of articles by the Portland Business Tribune and the Tri-City Herald.

Cowan worked with the National Park Service to create a solo exhibition titled “Architecture of the Manhattan Project” currently on display at the Manhattan Project National Historical Park visitor center at Hanford, Washington. His Manhattan Project portfolio was the subject of a solo photography exhibition on the 75thanniversary of the Manhattan Project at Allied Arts / Gallery at the Park in Richland, Washington. It was featured in the 2018-19 Pacific Northwest Viewing Drawers at Blue Sky Gallery and Center for the Photographic Arts in Portland, Oregon and a finalist in Photolucida’s Critical Mass. Juries selected photographs for representation in the “Life In Analog” national exhibition of film photography at Fort Works Art in Fort Worth, Texas, the “Lyceum Portland” group show of silver gelatin and alternative process prints at Jailhouse Studios in Portland, Oregon, and the “PDX 30” group show at LightBox Gallery in Astoria, Oregon.

A graduate of Washington State University, for eight years, Cowan was a member of the Professional Advisory Board for its 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 where he was the first and only western student to attend.