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LightRobert Adams

January 4, 2009

“Light is a loaded thing,” says photographer Robert Adams. Speaking both of a physical connection with light, and an appreciation for its naturally metaphorical qualities, Adams describes his intimate relationship with light, even claiming that his connection with the sun’s rays would affect him in the confinements of his dark room. “Kenneth Clark remarked in one of his books, that the thing that distinguished a landscape painter is an especially intense, emotional, response to light,” says the artist, “and I do believe that that’s true.”

As a photographer of environments typically void of human presence, it is clear that Adams’ infatuation with light is passionately explored through his work. “Light, it is a physical thing that you’re working with. It’s also obviously metaphor. It’s what you’re working with to arrive at metaphor,” says the artist, “It’s the age old symbol for truth, or an expression of truth… But fundamentally though, it’s just a deeply mysterious, compelling ingredient for your understanding of life and your response to it.”

More information and credits


Producer: Susan Sollins & Nick Ravich. Camera: Bob Elfstrom. Sound: Doug Dunderdale. Editor: Steven Wechsler. Artwork courtesy: Robert Adams.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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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.

“Light is a physical thing that you’re working with, but it’s also obviously a metaphor. It’s what you’re working with to arrive at metaphors. It’s the age old symbol for truth, or an expression of truth.”

Robert Adams


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Photography, Life, and Beauty

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

Robert Adams

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Robert Adams

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Robert Adams