THE BOOK Wild Beauty was Toedtemeier’s magnum opus. It contains 134 images that show the Columbia River Gorge’s transformation from the primal scene Lewis and Clark witnessed to the developed present. Among the featured photographers is Carleton E. Watkins, the revered nineteenth-century landscape photographer Toedtemeier idolized. Together, the photos tell a story not just of natural beauty but also of the terrible wonder of dynamited boulders and falls now flooded. Wild Beauty is a record of how Portlanders historically have interacted with the landscape, a chronicle of the art of photography, and a study of what Oregon lost—and managed to save. The book won the five-state Pacific Northwest Book Award, and the Oregonian named it the top Northwest book of 2008. The first printing sold out; the second was just released, in March.
THE COLLECTION During his twenty-three years as PAM’s curator of photography, Toedtemeier acquired rare, early Oregon and Northwest images as well as those by contemporary photographers working in a range of styles, from the minimalist black-and-white landscapes of Robert Adams to the theatrical fictions of Cindy Sherman and Carrie Mae Weems. The collection now contains more than five thousand brilliantly chosen photos, including those of famous photographers like Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, and Minor White, and of lesser-known masters. “Terry pioneered for the people of Oregon the idea that photographs could be works of art,” says the influential Weston Naef, the curator emeritus of photography at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
HIS OWN PHOTOGRAPHS Technically impeccable, fastidiously developed, polished to the smallest pebble on a beach, Toedtemeier’s photographs contain a preternatural sharpness and thunder with his passion for the Oregon landscape. His epochal vistas of sea caves, natural arches, and vast rock formations comprise an otherworldly corpus. His art was particularly informed by his scientific eye (he studied geology in college) and by the history of Western photography. Since his death, a patron has bought his work for the Philadelphia Art Museum; his photographs already had found a home at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.