2: Landscape as Journey

Robert Adams

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Robert Adams was born in New Jersey in 1937, and moved to Colorado as a teenager. Adams was a professor of English literature for several years before turning his full attention to photography in the mid 1970s.

His work first came to prominence in the mid-1970s through the book The New West (1974) and the exhibition New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape (1975). His work is largely concerned with moments of regional transition: the suburbanization of Denver, a changing Los Angeles of the 1970s and 1980s, and the clear-cutting in Oregon in the 1990s.

‘ More people currently know the appearance of Yosemite Valley and the Grand Canyon from looking at photographic books than from looking at the places themselves; conservation publishing has defined for most of us the outstanding features of the wilderness aesthetic. Unfortunately…the same spectacular pictures have also been widely accepted as a definition of nature, and the implication has been circulated that what is wild is not natural.’

‘Attention only to perfection…invites…for urban viewers – which means most of us – a crippling disgust; our world is in most places far from clean…This leaves photography with a new but not less important job: to reconcile us to half wilderness'(quoted Dunaway p22)

His  books include:

  • The New West
  • From the Missouri West
  • Summer Nights
  • Los Angeles Spring
  • To Make It Home
  • Listening to the River
  • West From the Columbia
  • What We Bought
  • Notes for Friends
  • California
  • Summer Nights
  • Walking, Gone?
  • What Can We Believe Where? 
  • The Place We Live.

Adams has also written a number of critical essays on the art of photography, including Beauty in Photography, Why People Photograph and most recently, Along Some Rivers.