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Robert Adams in "Ecology"

While living in Colorado Springs, Robert Adams began to capture black and white photographs of a burgeoning suburban strip–highways and tract houses that marred a dramatic landscape–a development that he loathed. Yet when Adams examined the images in his darkroom, he recognized for the first time the beauty within these pictures.

“The final strength in really great photographs is that they suggest more than just what they show literally,” says Adams. Working closely with his wife, Adams created Turning Back (1999-2003), which illustrates deforestation in the West, a practice that Adams describes as “not just a matter of exhaustion of resources. I do think there is involved an exhaustion of spirit.”

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Robert Adams

Robert Adams’ refined black-and-white photographs document scenes of the American West of the past four decades, revealing the impact of human activity on the last vestiges of wilderness and open space. Although often devoid of human subjects, or sparsely populated, Adams’s photographs capture the physical traces of human life: a garbage-strewn roadside, a clear-cut forest, a half-built house. An underlying tension in Adams’s body of work is the contradiction between landscapes visibly transformed or scarred by human presence and the inherent beauty of light and land rendered by the camera.

“The effort is to find that perfectly balanced frame where everything fits. It’s not exactly the same as life, it’s life seen better.”

Robert Adams

Robert Adams

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Robert Adams

What metaphors that relate to humanity and the natural world do artists explore?

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Robert Adams discusses his personal motivations for art-making, as well as his own understanding of beauty and the purpose of art.