Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor

ADAMS, ROBERT (b. 1937)

For more than thirty years Robert Adams has made photographs that describe the beauty of the land as well as the inexorable impact of human activity upon it. His earlier photographs, as seen in the monographs Denver: A Photographic Survey of the Metropolitan Area (1977) and From the Missouri West (1980), have been described as bleak and forlorn. They address the manifestations of unchecked growth: tract housing, strip malls, storage buildings, construction sites, and scarred land. Later work, as found in Perfect Times, Perfect Places (1988) and Listening to the River (1994), is perhaps more celebratory of the space and vistas of the High Plains, with attention given to the unifying element that graces all his work: the enduring beauty and revelatory quality of light.

Born in Orange, New Jersey, on May 8, 1937, Robert Adams moved with his family to Colorado in 1952. He lived in the Denver area until leaving for college in California, where he eventually earned a doctorate in English. Adams returned to Colorado in 1962 to accept a teaching position at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. Dismayed by the increasing destruction of familiar territory, he began photographing as a way to express both outrage and hope. He was sufficiently encouraged by the support of John Szarkowski at the Museum of Modern Art and increasing acceptance of his work to leave the teaching profession and devote his energies to his photographic endeavors. His work has been widely exhibited and was included in New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape, a major exhibition held at the George Eastman House in 1975. With twenty-two publications of writing and imagery, Robert Adams continues to be a major influence in contemporary photography as well as on our thinking toward the land we occupy.

Gary Huibregtse Colorado State University

Adams, Robert. To Make It Home: Photographs of the American West. New York: Aperture, 1989.

Adams, Robert. What We Bought: The New World. Hanover, Germany: Spectrum-Internationaler Pries für Fotografie der Stiftung Niedersachsen, 1995.

Green, Jonathan. American Photography. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1995.

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