Eastern Sierra Memories


Galen and Barbara Rowell were fascinating and complex people, and at least a little bit larger than life. They were artists, activists and adventurers. Galen was a world-renowned photographer, writer, mountaineer and athlete. Barbara was his partner in every way, and was an accomplished pilot, photographer and author in her own right. They traveled the world, but they especially loved the eastern Sierra, the Owens Valley and the White Mountains. In the fall of 2000, we shot with Barbara and Galen in their home, inside their colorful Mountain Light Gallery in Bishop, on the valley floor at dawn, flying the Sierra crest at midday and in the company of mountain sheep and a full moon rising at dusk. It was delightful to be with them and to see this great landscape through their eyes and Galen’s photography. Many people around the world were devastated when Barbara and Galen were killed in a plane crash on a nighttime approach to Bishop in August of 2002. It’s bittersweet to say the least, but I like seeing them again on the video. I hope you enjoy watching as much as we enjoyed our memorable day with Barbara and Galen.

Quite a lot has happened since Barbara and Galen died. First and fortunately, Mountain Light Gallery is flourishing. It’s a treasure and I urge that you visit online and in person whenever you can. The Sierra Club recently published a beautiful and moving retrospective of Galen’s life and work, with a foreword by Tom Brokaw. Galen and Barbara also supported many important causes over the years, and two living legacies have been established in their memory. The Rowell Fund for Tibet, now in its third year, has been able to give fifty thousand dollars in grants to projects within and outside Tibet. And a project I’ve been involved in is the Rowell Award for the Art of Adventure, also in its third year. The idea is to publicize and financially support the next generation of Rowells, activists and adventurers with commitments to leave the world a better place. Barbara and Galen would be pleased to know that the first two winners of the Rowell Award were Jimmy Chin and Beth Wald.

   posted by : Denny Jump on 4/4/2008 at 08:10 PM
Galen Rowell's photography has been such an inspiraton to me. Viewing his work was a big reason why I decided to get more serious about my own photography. My wife and I loved the White Mountains and the Ancient Bristlecone Pines. We always stopped at the Mountain lIght Gallery on our way up or back, just to get some karma. We have recently moved to Eastern Pennsylvania and are enjoying the change of scenery. But we wait for the day when we can return to visit our beloved Eastern Sierra and White Mountains. Until then, we keep the spirit of Mountain Light in our hearts.

   posted by : sunny16 on 1/7/2008 at 09:06 PM
Galen Rowell was my mentor in the art of photography as he was to so many who knew him only from his work. His death left a hole in my creative life. Before he moved to Bishop, Mountain Light was located in Emeryville where I made a brief stop one morning on my way to somewhere else. I wandered around the building studying his remarkable artistry after being told he hadn't come in yet. Then, after buying an autographed copy of his first book and as I prepared to leave I heard a man's voice coming from a small office on the second floor. Excitedly, I climbed the stairs and looked through the door to find Galen leaning back in his chair with his feet up, cheerfully chatting away on the phone. As I peered in, he smiled amiably and waved. That was a Kodak moment I'll never forget. Galen wasn't just a photographer; he made his art an outdoor sport and shamed the rest of us who typically shot our images from car windows on major highways. He'll always be missed but he left a legacy of examples that will stand the test of time.

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