Spheroidal Weathering, Harney Co., Oregon
Toedtemeier, Terry
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Prudence F. Roberts

Terry Toedtemeier: Photographer

May 04, 2024 to August 11, 2024


Terry Toedtemeier: Photographer brings together a special collection of prints by the artist, given to the JSMA by his friends, family, and colleagues. Born and raised in Portland, Toedtemeier was a fixture in the Oregon cultural community until his untimely passing in 2008 at the age of 61.

The exhibition highlights the range of Toedtemeier’s photographic work. It begins with his early experimentations made in the 1970s when, as a self-taught artist, he explored the boundaries of the photographic medium. The exhibition culminates with his impeccable later Northwest landscape images, where he balanced a discerning, scientifically-trained eye with an aesthetic interpretation of nature.

The fortuitous combination of art and science in Toedtemeier’s work began when he earned a bachelor’s degree in earth sciences from Oregon State University in 1969. His coursework included experiential learning as students walked the land to understand that observation and description were foundational skills necessary to interpret the meaning of geologic processes. Over time, he came to intuit that perceiving how the land was formed only increased its beauty.

Toedtemeier assumed the role of Associate Professor of Art and History when he began teaching at the Pacific Northwest College of Art in the 1980s, and in 1985 he was hired as the first Curator of Photography at the Portland Art Museum. Over the course of 23 years he built an exceptional foundation for that museum’s photography collection that grew to more than five thousand works.

As Toedtemeier inhabited the various roles of curator, historian, scientist, educator, and artist, the nuance and depth of his picturemaking matured. Terry Toedtemeier: Photographer presents the informed beauty in which all parts of his artistic awareness and each facet of these roles are indivisibly blended as one.

In an essay for a Reed College exhibition in 1986 of Toedtemeier’s photographs of the Columbia Gorge, his Portland Art Museum colleague and friend (and now JSMA Executive Director) John Weber wrote: Within the elegance of these images is humility…. Through his work, he insists that the land is not significant because of what we can take from it or use it for; rather, the land, like our understanding and treatment of it, is crucial because we are ultimately and inescapably a part of nature.

Terry Toedtemeier: Photographer is curated by Thom Sempere, Associate Curator of Photography.