Reviewed by Carrie Madren
Forget pastoral landscapes and sunny Bay shorelines. Photographer John Guyton depicts blazing buildings, Earth-scouring tornados and mammoth clouds contorted into powerful, surging storms. You’ll find such extreme adventure neatly framed in white matting tucked away in a dull meeting room at Edgewater Library through the end of February.
In his two-part exhibit, Guyton rushes you to the heart of fire emergency sites and hustles you to twister-tracking views both a bit close for comfort. Brief memories explain each photograph, highlighting what stuck with Guyton at each scene.
As a Prince George’s County firefighter for 40 years, Guyton had plenty of fires great and small to photograph. A storyteller by picture, he shows the grit, grime, heat and rubble that vivify the tragedy of homes and businesses lost. In Exhausted, firefighters smeared in sweat and soot rest between smoky ruins and a firetruck. Barn Fire depicts responders battling a barn fire off Bestgate Road in Annapolis a fire that interrupted a date with his future wife, becoming her first fire. In yet another blaze, Warehouse, Guyton’s caption explains how interior metal trusses sagged from the sheer heat of the inferno.
Guyton took up his second dangerous hobby, storm chasing, in 1998. Following storms, he brings you to Kansas, Texas and Nebraska. Massive whirling skies and blaring, thunderous lightning strikes make you shudder. Through the photos, you feel the power, energy and fear that surges across the Midwestern landscape when a tornado draws close. Dust pelts through the air, downed power lines loom over roads and, Guyton reports, baseball-sized hail cracks windshields.
In Night Tornado, a thin, defined twister strikes Kansas at night, only illuminated by backlighting from far-off lightning.
Still in Kansas shows an enormous whirling cloud of dust and debris, shot from the side of a wet highway illuminated by the red taillights of a van, beside a broken electricity pole.
Like a good roller coaster, Guyton’s collection draws you near the danger with fiery and ferocious reality thrilling you safely.
Guyton’s Storm Chasing and Firefighting Photography shows thru Feb. 28, library hours at Edgewater Library, 25 Stepneys Ln., Edgewater: 410-222-1538.