Kevin Erskine (*1956 in Sharpsburg, Illinois) witnessed his first big storm at the age of 12. That was in Hoskins, Nebraska (population 284); it was a category 4 tornado with maximum wind speeds of 340 kilometers per hour. Impressed by the force of nature – „I guess my emotions were a mixture of both fear and awe“, Erskine says – he took up photography „and began to document the otherwordly beauty of the vast storm systems that passed over the family farm“, as Richard Hamblyn writes in his introduction. When Erskine had his first pickup truck at the age of 19, he started chasing storms with his large format camera. A selection of the supercells that he captured can be found in this impressive tome.
Erskine does not see himself a a storm tourist. „I do not chase tornados, I'm looking for the beauty in the storm," he was quoted on Spiegel online. And although his photos often look like being taken from very close, he doesn't really go that close: „I'm using lenses with an extreme wide angle. This makes the storms look closer than they were in reality.“
Richard Hamblyn aptly points out that Erskine documents what Emerson called „the ultimate art gallery above.“ With this in mind I began again to spend time with these beautiful, awe-inspiring photographs. I felt entranced, and my horizon enlarged. „As I started chasing this big weather I became addicted to the beauty of it,“ recalls Erskine. „The ever-changing winds result in unique sky sculptures again and again. Capturing this on a large-format camera is almost a humbling attempt to show the grandeur of Mother Nature.“
The other side of this grandeur is shown on the last double-page where one can see the damage caused by a category 5 tornado in Greensburg, Kansas, in 2007 – smart concept!
PS: Don't miss Redmond O'Hanlons wonderful story „Ascension“ on page 54. It starts like this: „Early one morning in Madhya Pradesh in central India a tourist went for a walk. And disappeared. Several days later one of the search parties found his camera ...“
Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern 2011