Along Some Rivers.
Photographs and Conversations.
Photographs and text by Robert Adams.
Aperture, New York, 2006. 96 pp., 28 duotone illustrations, 5½x8¼".
As Robert Adams states in one interview, "light is tragic," and the direction of his work has been to document that tragedy by showing how light unfolds to reveal the drama around us. There's an intense melancholy to his images, a deep sadness in the beauty he captures that reveals the natural world at its most vulnerable. What concerns him is the way corporate America and overpopulation have destroyed the West, yet he resists doomsday nihilism by offering this advice, found in another interview: "When I'm photographing in clear-cuts, I know that what has brought me there is a sense of the world coming apart. But after I've been there long enough to get over my shock at the violence…I'm discovering things in the sunlight. You can stand in the most hopeless place and if its in daylight you can experience moments that are right, that are whole."
The interviews, which date from 1994 up until Fall 2005, continue the discourse begun in Beauty in Photography, published with Aperture almost twenty years ago. Adams, who has a PhD in English, can embellish his replies with lines of poetry from William Blake to Theodore Roethke, or make poignant references to the novels of Willa Cather or Virginia Wolf. But his talk is mostly filled with personal wit and detailed descriptions of his experience as a photographer that reveal an intelligence at work, constantly seeking to examine what goes on behind and in front of the lens. The book is worth having just for the 28 duotone photographs, most of which have never before been published. The reader is taken on a visual journey across sun-drenched gullies, down riverbanks bending with old trees and to the final brutal crime scene of a clear cut. Among the many discoveries to be made reading these discursive talks on art and on life, Adams points to the painter Edward Hopper as the most important and quintessential American artist. As Adams phrases it: "He is the key to the feel of the United States. To the light and space. To the beauty of half-developed spaces. And to the loneliness." That same statement could be applied to Adams himself in terms of what his 40 years in the field has meant to his success in capturing, in black-and-white, the vast and lonely terrain of the American West. MARK HILLRINGHOUSE
This review was originally published in the Fall 2006 issue of the photo-eye Booklist. To learn more about the Booklist click here.
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