Mitch Dobrowner, Chromosphere, Green Grass, South Dakota, 2012

Mitch Dobrowner (1956 – ), Chromosphere, Green Grass, South Dakota 2012, archival pigment print. Middlebury College Museum of Art.  Purchase with funds provided by the Fine Arts Acquisition Fund, 2015.229.

Since childhood, Mitch Dobrowner has loved being caught in thunderstorms. For nearly a decade, he has been chasing storms with his camera to capture nature at its most sublime. Teaming up with experienced storm-chaser Roger Hill, Dobrowner has photographed massive super cell storm systems in Tornado Alley and the Great Plains.

Dobrowner’s photographic roots lie in the work of Ansel Adams, whose carefully composed black and white photographs remain an important inspiration. Unlike Adams, however, Dobrowner uses digital technology. Dobrowner does very little post-processing, other than adjusting saturation levels. When National Geographic magazine published a ten-page spread of his photographs in 2012, according to Dobrowner “they pixel peeped every file, so it was almost like a certification for me. That these were nonmanipulated images….”1

Researching the formation of storm systems, Dobrowner learned to appreciate the complexity of atmospheric dynamics, as well as their metaphorical significance. He observed in 2011, “I see these storms as living, breathing things. They are born when the conditions are right, they gain strength as they grow, they fight against their environment to stay alive, they change form as they age, and eventually they die. Sounds familiar.”2

Ansel Adams (1902-1984), Mount Williamson, Sierra Nevada, from Manzanar, California, 1944, gelatin silver print. Middlebury College Museum of Art. Purchase with funds provided by the Electra Havemeyer Webb Memorial Fund and the Christian A. Johnson Memorial Art Acquisition Fund, 2003.006. © Ansel Adams Publishing Trust

Unlike his predecessor Ansel Adams, Dobrowner does not consider his work in terms of environmental activism. Nevertheless, he admits “If the images raise awareness, that would be wonderful. And yes, I am concerned about the environment – especially the American Southwest – but to achieve what I’m setting out to do I need to stay focused. And if one of my images influences someone to reconsider taking their ATV out and riding it over the desert floor… and that saves just one pristine rock/stone or landscape – well then I’ve accomplished something.”3