Underwater beauty in Thaddeus Holownia's Silver Ghost

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By: Tessa Perkins

First published in The Peak June 2008.

In collaboration with Harry Thurston, Thaddeus Holownia has created a series of photographs that pay homage to the Atlantic salmon in the book Silver Ghost. Over several years, Holownia has traveled to the salmon rivers of Eastern Canada during all seasons to capture their beauty and magnificence. The photos that he has collected and compiled into this book are a celebration of the habitat of the Atlantic salmon, the rivers they swim in, and the geography surrounding them. The book also explores the cultural connection between these rivers, the salmon, and their natural history.


Thaddeus Holownia was born in Bury Saint Edmunds, England, and he immigrated to New Brunswick at the age of five. A professor at Mount Allison University, Holownia has been exhibiting his photography since the 1970s. He has won numerous awards, has had his work in various collections throughout North America, and his photographs have been widely published. Holownia also has a bachelors degree in Communications and Fine Arts from the University of Windsor. Dedicating his life to large-format-view cameras, Holownia has kept to his signature style in this series by using a 7-by-17-inch format camera. It is evident that Holownia is highly skilled at what he does: capturing beauty where one would never think to look for it.

The exhibit in Winsor Gallery is completely grey, white, and silver, which emphasizes the features of the photos and their surreal silver quality. There is a sort of energy that seems to flow through the photos giving them a sense of continuous motion. The photos are very polished and remind one of marble or glass with a sort of translucent yet opaque gleam. The rivers are made to look like fluid, molten lava flowing through the landscapes; this fluidity gives off the same feeling of peace and calm that listening to the river run over the rocks would.

The rivers blend in so well with the surrounding land that it is often hard to determine where the water ends and the land begins. This blending of water and land signifies the connection between us and the salmon of the rivers that supply many of our resources: the salmon depend on the rivers to lead them on their slow, meandering journey home as we depend on the salmon for food.

The photographer was present at the opening, and the gallery was full of people chatting and drinking wine while admiring the sublime silvery photos. Holownia has a way of capturing movements and reflections in the water that make it look like a whole new substance. These photos are truly a small glimpse of the fleeting and rare beauty that these rivers have to offer.

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