Photos of Robert Adams

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Norma Desmond, Jul 23, 2016.

    There's a current exhibit at SF MOMA called California and the West. Many of Adams's photos stood out to me.
    In reading about Adams, I discovered that The Guardian's Sean O'Hagan described the subtext of his photos as "silence."
    That seems to capture so much about them. Do you hear that?
    Adams is in part so interesting (and moving) because he straddles two perspectives. He seems to appreciate the natural beauty of the regions he photographs while also documenting the changes that urban and industrial growth bring to that landscape.
    I think the lack of irony in his approach adds power to his work. What I mean by that is that his juxtapositions of the landscape and manscape seem authentic and not self conscious. I find him tuning me into something and not so much emphasizing or imposing an incongruity. He seems to maintain hope in recognizing the fragility of what he sees.
  2. Do you know his books? He is a fine writer about what is involved in being a photographer. I particularly like "Why People
  3. Ellis, just finding out more about Adams. I hadn't realized he wrote quite a bit about photography and is considered a pretty good critic. Planning to look into that. I will check out your recommendation. Thanks.
  4. Thank you for introducing a photographer who may not be known elsewhere, or only in specific art circles.
    I sense an approach and feeling of barrenness as much as silence in his images, although the latter is certainly something I could sense as well in viewing a half dozen of his gallery portfolios.
    But it is not a silence that instructs or connects with me. Is it barrenness or maybe a sense of placelessness, of sites stripped down to some part thereof that intrigues or beckons the photographer. Whether urban and small dusty western towns, dry landscapes, or dense trees and brush, I feel a certain alienation being proposed to what he is seeing rather than a particular strong fascination with it, but that may be my own perception than what he is attempting to show.
    Many of the images do arrest briefly at least one's (my) attention, which is positive, but they sort of suspend or hang up everything rather than elaborate them, like a somewhat original verbal statement that may intrigue the listener but which has no follow up.
    While I do not in any way reject his often sparse vistas or need to see lush scenes or perfect urban landscapes in photographs, I am left with a feeling of déjà vu (post post modern image) as well as the sentiment of barrenness or alienation. Could that be his aim? What is he communicating that other former similar imagery has not done? Can reading his books open any doors to what he considers the aim of his photographs and those of others? That might be well worthwhile, as Ellis hints at, and I am looking for probing thought literature for an upcoming trip and personal time (I discovered the Austrian Stefan Zweig a few days ago from as visiting friend, but that is another to do).
  5. Thank you Phil.
    Well we cannot know everything I guess, and the New Topographics group and the much better known Mr. Adams than I had assumed was one of their members in the 1970s. The foreword to their exhibition catalogue stated:
    "The pictures were stripped of any artistic frills and reduced to an essentially topographic state, conveying substantial amounts of visual information but eschewing entirely the aspects of beauty, emotion and opinion,." "[...] rigorous purity, deadpan humor and a casual disregard for the importance of the images."​
    I am totally sympathetic with the subject of man made landscapes or partially natural cultural landscapes of human occupation and how they represent place and its dwellers. My felt sense of barrenness and alienation in Adam's images may fit within the thoughts of that foreword. will deliver one of Adam's books next week.
    I guess that the most altered natural landscapes are towns and cities with a grid pattern of numbered streets, without any significant acceptance of the natural topography, or of concert with the movement suggested by hills and valleys or other topographic features. However, man occasionally works with nature, instead of mainly ignoring it. I try to depict that in some of my own very modest work.
  6. Adams's early work was/is fresh and interesting, but he hasn't taken any kind of risk in a long, long time.
    I still enjoy him because he loves photography and because he is unquestionably sincere, but watching him now is kind of like watching Elvis impersonating himself in his later years. Silly, but if you love him, you pretend he's not.
  7. When I first started shooting, every banal picture I took seemed to me to be intriguing, magical, unique. Just the ability to steal a moment in time was the "cat's meow". That's what his pictures seem to me.
    Just to be fair, often my pictures today seem and probably are the same.
  8. The real world.
    When I was a little lad I can remember kicking a stone around because i was bored.
    Sort of felt the world was a cold boring place,
  9. Cold and sterile....
  10. A deputation of hell.
  11. In all honesty I do not understand the fascination with his photos. I clicked the link above in OP's post and was curious about what I would find. They don't move me the way they do others. To me mostly seems like snapshots and a few I would have discarded if I had taken them.

    There are a few that I like but don't see what makes them special.

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