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Working Along FreewaysRobert Adams

December 3, 2008

“I spent several years working along freeways,” Robert Adams says in his Oregon studio. Adams’ photographs range from scenic and picturesque to tattered and crumbling, describing the evolution of the Western landscape and revealing the unignorable and predominantly negative effects of humans.

Despite being typically devoid of human subjects, Adams’s photographs convey human presence through physical traces of life imposed on the natural landscape: a garbage-strewn roadside, a clear-cut forest, or a half-built house. However, Adams’ work also conveys a sense of hope that change can be effected to preserve the American West.

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

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.

“Of course, the whole effort was to try to find a way to tell the truth, and simultaneously, to accept what one had to accept and to recognize or find what had be changed.”

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.