Rocky Mountain Chapter

Robert Adams' contemporary landscape photography

Roberts Adams subdivision trunk

By Mike Whiteley

RMC Outings Team

Robert Adams is one of the top landscape photographers working today. His work is in every major art museum in the country, in many public and private collections, and many books have been published of his work. Adams was the recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts Photographer’s Fellowships, two John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowships, the Peer Award of The Friends of Photography and the Hasselblad Award for his achievements in photography. He has had a profound influence on many contemporary photographers.

Adams was raised in Colorado and did most of his first photography work here, some of which was influential. His book The New West in 1974 and the 1975 exhibition New Topographics signaled a radical shift away from traditional depictions of landscape. Pictures of transcendent natural vistas gave way to unromanticized views of stark industrial landscapes, suburban sprawl, everyday scenes and ordinary vistas.

Adams, in The New West, makes these remarks: “Many have asked, pointing incredulously toward a sweep of tract homes and billboards, why picture that? The question sounds simple, but it implies a difficult issue—why open our eyes anywhere but in undamaged places like national parks? One reason is, of course, that we do not live in parks; rather we need to improve things at home. To do that we must see the facts without blinking. We also need to see the whole geography, natural and man-made, to experience a peace; all land, no matter what has happened to it, has a grace, an absolutely persistent beauty.”

Even though Robert Adams’ work may be different than that of Ansel Adams, there is a strong connection between them. Both have a strong passion for the environment. Ansel’s is portrayed as a more romantic vision, the way we would like things to be. Whereas Robert’s is more the way it really is. Each has its own beauty.

“At our best and most fortunate we make pictures because of what stands before our camera, to honor what is greater and more interesting than we are,” Robert Adams said. “We never accomplish this perfectly, though in return we are given something perfect—a sense of inclusion. Our subject thus redefines us, and is part of the biography by which we want to be known.”


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