Eirik Johnson

Sawdust Mountain

archival pigment prints
24 x 30 inches, edition of 10
40 x 50 inches, edition of 5

Eirik Johnson, Stacked logs in Weyerhaeuser sort yard, Cosmopolis, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Stacked logs in Weyerhaeuser sort yard, Cosmopolis, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Weyerhaeuser sorting yard along the Chehalis River, Cosmopolis, Washington, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Weyerhaeuser sorting yard along the Chehalis River, Cosmopolis, Washington, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Starlite Drive-In, Roseburg, Oregon, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Starlite Drive-In, Roseburg, Oregon, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Mill, Aberdeen, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Mill, Aberdeen, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Logs in the Coquille River, Oregon, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Logs in the Coquille River, Oregon, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Coquille, Oregon, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Coquille, Oregon, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Arlington, Washington, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Arlington, Washington, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Timber for sale outside Clallam Bay, Washington, 2008

Eirik Johnson, Timber for sale outside Clallam Bay, Washington, 2008

Eirik Johnson, Roger Mosley counting Coho spawn nests along the upper Sol Duc River, Washington, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Roger Mosley counting Coho spawn nests along the upper Sol Duc River, Washington, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Spawned Coho, upper Sol Duc River, Washington, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Spawned Coho, upper Sol Duc River, Washington, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Confluence of the Rogue and Illinois Rivers, Oregon, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Confluence of the Rogue and Illinois Rivers, Oregon, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Clearcut burn pile, Oregon, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Clearcut burn pile, Oregon, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Erin Rieman along the Siuslaw River, Oregon, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Erin Rieman along the Siuslaw River, Oregon, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Junked blue trucks, Forks, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Junked blue trucks, Forks, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Missy Barlow’s dryer lint landscape, lower Hoh River, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Missy Barlow’s dryer lint landscape, lower Hoh River, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Missy by her garden, lower Hoh River, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Missy by her garden, lower Hoh River, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Adolescent bald eagle, Queets, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Adolescent bald eagle, Queets, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Totem poles, Winston, Oregon, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Totem poles, Winston, Oregon, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Art of Wood store, North Bend, Oregon, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Art of Wood store, North Bend, Oregon, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Adult books, firewood and truck for sale, Port Angeles, Washington, 2008

Eirik Johnson, Adult books, firewood and truck for sale, Port Angeles, Washington, 2008

Eirik Johnson, Aberdeen, Washington, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Aberdeen, Washington, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Gardiner, Oregon, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Gardiner, Oregon, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Scrapped train, Arlington, Washington, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Scrapped train, Arlington, Washington, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Josh cleaning a Chinook along the Sol Duc River, Washington, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Josh cleaning a Chinook along the Sol Duc River, Washington, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Salmon jerky stand, Hoppaw, California, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Salmon jerky stand, Hoppaw, California, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Deborah and William along the Sauk River, Washington, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Deborah and William along the Sauk River, Washington, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Tola, Lower Hoh River, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Tola, Lower Hoh River, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, The road to Forks, Washington, 2006

Eirik Johnson, The road to Forks, Washington, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Sol Duc River salmon hatchery, Washington, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Sol Duc River salmon hatchery, Washington, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Carl near Sappho, Washington, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Carl near Sappho, Washington, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Elwha River Dam, Washington, 2008

Eirik Johnson, Elwha River Dam, Washington, 2008

Eirik Johnson, Cindy, Nemah River hatchery, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Cindy, Nemah River hatchery, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Quinalt tribal gill nets, Queets River, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Quinalt tribal gill nets, Queets River, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Below the Glines Canyon Dam on the upper Elwha River, Washington, 2008

Eirik Johnson, Below the Glines Canyon Dam on the upper Elwha River, Washington, 2008

Eirik Johnson, Missy beneath her 600 year-old Spruce, Hoh River, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Missy beneath her 600 year-old Spruce, Hoh River, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Freshly felled trees, Nemah, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Freshly felled trees, Nemah, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Clearcut Sekiu, Washington, 2008

Eirik Johnson, Clearcut Sekiu, Washington, 2008

Eirik Johnson, Powerlines above Cosmopolis, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Powerlines above Cosmopolis, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Juan Abalos salvaging cedar shingle bolts, lower Hoh River, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Juan Abalos salvaging cedar shingle bolts, lower Hoh River, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Offices, Seaport Lumber, South Bend, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Offices, Seaport Lumber, South Bend, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Stacked alder boards, Seaport Lumber Planer, South Bend, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Stacked alder boards, Seaport Lumber Planer, South Bend, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Sawdust, Seaport Lumber Mill, Forks, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Sawdust, Seaport Lumber Mill, Forks, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Old photographs, Seaport Lumber, South Bend, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Old photographs, Seaport Lumber, South Bend, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Juan Valencia salvaging cedar shingle bolts, lower Hoh River, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Juan Valencia salvaging cedar shingle bolts, lower Hoh River, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Topped trees reserved for wildlife, Nemah, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Topped trees reserved for wildlife, Nemah, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Willapa Sands Estates, South Bend, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Willapa Sands Estates, South Bend, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Grays Harbor, Aberdeen, Washington, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Grays Harbor, Aberdeen, Washington, 2006

Eirik Johnson, The Sweater Store, South Bend, Washington, 2005

Eirik Johnson, The Sweater Store, South Bend, Washington, 2005

Eirik Johnson, South Bend, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, South Bend, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Abandoned home, Arlington, Washington, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Abandoned home, Arlington, Washington, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Just Sell it Now on Ebay consignment store, South Bend Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Just Sell it Now on Ebay consignment store, South Bend Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Colin, Sucher & Sons Star Wars store, Aberdeen, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Colin, Sucher & Sons Star Wars store, Aberdeen, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Jim and Star, Aberdeen, Washington, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Jim and Star, Aberdeen, Washington, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Alley mural, Aberdeen, Washington, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Alley mural, Aberdeen, Washington, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Memorial outside Joyce, Washington, 2008

Eirik Johnson, Memorial outside Joyce, Washington, 2008

Eirik Johnson, Hoquiam, Washington, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Hoquiam, Washington, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Mike, Swiss Home, Oregon, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Mike, Swiss Home, Oregon, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Logging road near Shelton, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Logging road near Shelton, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Missy’s studio, lower Hoh River, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Missy’s studio, lower Hoh River, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Makah tribal gill nets on the Sooes River outside Neah Bay, Washington, 2008

Eirik Johnson, Makah tribal gill nets on the Sooes River outside Neah Bay, Washington, 2008

Eirik Johnson, Brad Balderson on his long liner the Fish Hog, Neah Bay, Washington, 2008

Eirik Johnson, Brad Balderson on his long liner the Fish Hog, Neah Bay, Washington, 2008

Eirik Johnson, Harold Balderson above Neah Bay, Washington, 2008

Eirik Johnson, Harold Balderson above Neah Bay, Washington, 2008

Eirik Johnson, Carl placing hatchery salmon carcasses in stream near Sappho, Washington, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Carl placing hatchery salmon carcasses in stream near Sappho, Washington, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Western larch seedlings, Webster Forest Nursery, Tumwater, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Western larch seedlings, Webster Forest Nursery, Tumwater, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, José planting Douglas fir seedlings outside Rainier, Oregon, 2007

Eirik Johnson, José planting Douglas fir seedlings outside Rainier, Oregon, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Seedling packing facility, Webster Forest Nursery, Tumwater, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Seedling packing facility, Webster Forest Nursery, Tumwater, Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Rogue River, Oregon, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Rogue River, Oregon, 2006

Eirik Johnson, Shipwreck and salmon fishermen on the Columbia River between Washington and Oregon, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Shipwreck and salmon fishermen on the Columbia River between Washington and Oregon, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Destruction Island off the coast of Washington, 2007

Eirik Johnson, Destruction Island off the coast of Washington, 2007

Sawdust Mountain
by Eirik Johnson

When I was a child growing up in the American Pacific Northwest, my family would hunt for mushrooms amongst the cedar and fir trees of the forest.  We would drive down old dirt roads, pulling off at a promising spot and disappear into the woods.  We spent afternoons along the shallows of a river watching salmon fight their way to spawning grounds upstream.  These were the icons of the region: forest and salmon, pillars of our collective identity.  Yet in returning to photograph the Northwest, I found a region imbued with much history but uncertain future.

The project Sawdust Mountain focuses on the tenuous relationship between industries reliant upon natural resources and the communities they support.  Forests of the coastal mountains are now a patchwork of logged clearings and burn piles, young timber and occasional pockets of old growth.  Mountains, covered with Douglas fir seedlings barely a foot tall, appear physically smaller in size.  These new “working” forests are bred in greenhouses for efficiency and shorter rotations between planting and harvest. The faster trees grow, the quicker they can be harvested and a new crop planted.

Yet with the era of endless big trees a thing of the past, mill-towns and ports that once hummed with activity are a shadow of their former importance.  Old machinery and pier pilings recall a time when industry and opportunistic pioneers set their sights on the forest.  Homes lie foreclosed and storefronts are closed indefinitely.  An eerie quietness pervades these communities as they search for their own refashioned sense of purpose.  The lumber mills that do remain are a primary employer for the towns and the main reason for their continued survival.  Still, with high unemployment and dwindling populations, many are turning to improvised economies of selling sweaters or salvaging old lumber.

Wild salmon still return to spawn in coastal rivers, but like the old growth forests, their numbers are a tiny fraction of what once were thriving runs.  A legacy of over fishing, hydro-electrical dams, and logging near spawning habitat has greatly depleted such runs.  In their place are state-run hatcheries where tiny Coho, Chinook, and Steelhead eggs are incubated and released from their concrete holding pens into the river.

The photographs in Sawdust Mountain reflect upon how the specific challenges facing the Northwest stand as a bellwether for a sustainable balance between industry and ecosystem.