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Art Is… Going to a Dark Place | SFMOMA Shorts

In this SFMOMA short four artists, including Robert Adams and Richard Misrach, discuss how creating art has helped them cope with disturbing themes such as fear, trauma, and war. The artists address how going to these “dark places” has fostered the discovery of profound beauty and insight.

To want to make pictures is fundamentally to want to share something that you have seen of value, and that you suspect maybe people haven’t paid enough attention to. The American West has been my primary subject, particularly the landscape. They are frightening landscapes and the only way I can get over my own anxiety about them is to go and keep working. – Robert Adams

From the series SFMOMA shorts video posting on 6, June, 2016
To learn more about Robert Adams, please visit his artist page.
To learn more about Richard Misrach, please visit his artist page.

Alec Soth on Influence, Summer Nights, and Allen Ginsberg


In an interview with Aperture Remix‘s curator, Lesley A. Martin, Alec Soth discusses the influence of Robert Adams and Allen Ginsberg on his work. He emphasizes the importance of finding his own voice, and finding what moves him. The interview also includes a video, which takes the place of still photography, and serves as a response to the work of Robert Adams.

But for me to have an authentic voice, I need to follow whatever stirs me. Maybe it would make me a better citizen if I read Wendell Berry rather than watched Breaking Bad, but it wouldn’t make me a better artist. –Alec Soth

From the Aperture online posting from 8 November 2012.
To learn more about Soth’s work, please visit his artist page.

Robert Adams’ Journey to Nehalem Bay



KQED reviews our exhibition “Robert Adams: A Road Through Shore Pine.” The review provides insight into Adams’s use of metaphor.

Adams’ photos, however, appear to be an homage to that road, not the dirty, oil-stained asphalt, but the idea of it as a journey or a destination. Many travelers are particularly fond of certain roads—they are drawn to the trees that flank the pavement, the tourist traps that divert their spare change, or memories of conversations they’ve shared with a lover while speeding through a valley of dried sagebrush. –Matthew Harrison Tedford

From the KQED online posting byMatthew Harrison Tedford on 22 September 2014.
To learn more about Adams’s work, please visit his artist page.

Robert Adams’s healing images of “A Road Through Shore Pine”


Kimberly Chun sat down with Robert Adams to discuss his recent body of work, “A Road Through Shore Pine,” on view at the gallery through 15 November 2014.

One can go back along the spit, back to town and to one’s duties, and the pictures record an attempt to find peace. It’s a walk we all make sooner or later, and the actual act of photographing is the most healing thing I can do. –Robert Adams

From the San Francisco Chronicle online posting by Kimberly Chun on 12 September 2014.
To learn more about Adams’ work, please visit his artist page.

Robert Adams Photographs and Books

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Kenneth Baker of the San Francisco Chronicle reviews our exhibitions Robert Adams: A Road Through Shore Pine and Robert Adams: The Complete Books 1970-2014 on view through 15 November 2014.

His level-eyed approach almost makes us feel like resisting the call of nostalgia, even perhaps of reminiscence, as if revisiting these vistas were an exercise in self-discipline. –Kenneth Baker

From the San Francisco Chronicle online posting by Kenneth Baker on 12 September 2014.
To learn more about Adams’ work, please visit his artist page.


Robert Adams retrospective at the Jeu de Paume



To accompany a Robert Adams retrospective entitled “The Place We Live” (L’endroit où nous vivons), running through 18 May 2014, the Jeu de Paume has released a video detailing some of the projects Adams has pursued over the course of his career, including his early influences and interests.

From the Jeu de Paume online posting by Terra Luna Films on 22 February 2014.
To learn more about Adams’ work, please visit his artist page.

Portland Art Museum acquires important collection of Robert Adams photographs


The Portland Art Museum has announced the acquisition of a collection of 69 Robert Adams photographs depicting the landscapes of Western Oregon. The photographs were taken between 1992 and 2012 as part of a series displaying the effects of clear-cutting on the state’s forest environs.

No photographer of our time has better shown us what we both love and too often tend to spoil throughout the American West than Robert Adams. –Jock Reynolds, Henry J. Heinz II Director of the Yale University Art Gallery

From the Portland Art Museum online posting on 27 May 2014.
To learn more about Adams’ work, please visit his artist page.

Robert Adams Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters

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The American Academy of Arts and Letters has announced that photographer Robert Adams will be included in the annual induction ceremony for new members in May 2014. He will be one of nine new members to be inducted to the 250-member organization in 2014. The event will include an exhibition of artwork.

From the American Academy of Arts and Letters online posting from 20 March 2014.
To learn more about Adams’ work, please visit his artist page.

American Suburb X: An Interview with Robert Adams


Robert Adams discusses the importance of having a book of one’s own photographs published in the age of digital media. This excerpt from his interview with Alexa Dilworth reflects his opinion that books will always be an integral part of a photographers career.

With respect to the option of having your work online, it seems to me many photographers still prefer books to that too, and the reasons are complicated. But a picture on paper, assuming it’s well reproduced, is closer to the experience of holding a print than seeing an image on a screen. There is also an important satisfaction in holding a well-made book. It’s a beautiful object from that itself suggests wholeness. The pleasure of that object still matters to a lot of photographers. –Robert Adams

From American Suburb X online posting by Alexa Dilworth in 2011.
For more information on Adams’ work, please visit his artist page.

Portland Monthly: Visionary Photographer Robert Adams Turns His Lens on Oregon

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From 7 September 2013 until 5 January 2014, the Portland Art Museum is showcasing an exhibition of 70 prints by Robert Adams, one of the most influential landscape photographers. The exhibition documents how the western landscape has been destroyed over the years due to human activity.

We have a decision to make, says the photographer, who believes clear-cutting should be banned and has campaigned for two failed ballot initiatives to stop the practice. It’s just like when we said, No, you can’t kill the last 80 buffalo on the North American continent. The problem isn’t that we don’t know how to fix this problem; it’s that we don’t have the political will. –Robert Adams

From the Portland Monthly Art online posting by Randy Gragg on 3 September 2013.
To learn more about Adams’ work, visit his artist page.

Robert Adams: Ecology

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Robert Adams is among one of the artists featured in Art 21‘s episode Ecology, that explores the relationship of nature and culture. Adams’s subject of photography has been the American West for the past 40 years, capturing the increasing destruction of our landscape. His exhibition “Turning Back” (1999-2003) focused on the changing scene of nature overtaken by human construction.

The final strength in really great photographs is that they suggest more than just what they show literally. Beauty, which I admit to being in pursuit of is extremely suspect toward among many in the art world. But I don’t think you can get along without it. It is a conformation frankly, of meaning in life.

From Art 21 online posting in 2007.
To learn more about Adams’ work, please visit his artist page.


From The Archives: Robert Adams, Ecology, 2007

Screen Shot 2013-02-06 at 2.19.29 PMIn this video, Robert Adams discusses the beginning of his career in photography, starting at tract houses in Colorado Springs, up until his documentation of the deforestation of the Pacific Northwest:

Photography and poetry both center on metaphor. My subject has fundamentally, for 40 years, been the American West. The first serious photography I did that had any success to it began in Colorado. Living in Colorado Springs at the time, I started to photograph along the emerging suburban strip. I hiked around taking pictures of the tract houses and highways. I came in the darkroom and printed them and I was really surprised… I thought I was taking pictures of things that I hated, but there was something about these pictures… they were unexpectedly, disconcertingly glorious. And from that grew a project called “The New West,” which really was the first serious work I did. –Robert Adams

From the PBS online posting by Art21 in 2007.
To learn more about Adams’ work, please visit his artist page.

Robert Adams: Working Along Freeways

This brief clip of Robert Adams by Art21 takes a closer look at Adams’ photographs of freeways and street scenes. His images range from admiration to what he considers “utter revulsion.”

The whole effort was to find a way to tell the truth and simultaneously to accept what one had to accept and recognize…what could be changed, hopefully. –Robert Adams

From the Art21 online posting in 2008.
To learn more about Adams’ work, please visit his artist page.

Robert Adams: The Place We Live

Over 300 of Adams’ works have been organized into a traveling exhibit by Yale University Art Gallery entitled Robert Adams: The Place We Live.

…regardless of spreading development, he never stopped finding beauty at the far edges of America. Construction abstracted into a natural feature, nature deconstructed into man-made wastelands, early shots of the Colorado prairie bathed in a light so clear and pure other artists thought Adams was faking it—this is the work of an American master on the edge of civilization, making his mark on photographic history, leaving nothing but footprints on the land he loved. –Aaron Gertler

From the Out of Order Magazine online posting by Aaron Gertler in 2012.
To learn more about Adams’ work, please visit his artist page.

Robert Adams: Books & Gravures

In this video, Robert Adams explains the importance of the relationship between pictures when juxtaposed, specifically in the context of books, and the benefit of pairing individually strong photographs together to create new meaning:

As all photographers know, one good picture next to another good picture and you have a third something. It may be better, it may be worse, but putting pictures next to each other inevitably influences the nature of both pictures. –Robert Adams

From the Art21 online posting in 20 March 2008.
To learn more about Adams’ work, please visit his artist page.

Robert Adams: Moving Forward, Looking Back

Alec Soth, photographer and founder of Little Brown Mushroom, annually reviews his favorite books of the year. For his list last year, one reader asked, “Is there one book in your list that changed you as an artist? One of these that allowed you to take something from it that you could use to move forward?” After consideration, Soth named Prairie by Robert Adams as the most influential photo book of 2011. We look forward to Sloth’s list for 2012.

For me, Prairie brought home the fact that I need to sometimes look backward in order to move forward. I need to remember the reason why I first got interested in photography in order to continue photographing. –Alec Soth

From the Little Brown Mushroom Blog online post by Alec Soth on 30 December 2011.
To learn more about Adams’ work, please visit his artist page.
To purchase Prairie, please visit the publications page.

Robert Adams in The New York Times

The New York Times reviewed Robert Adams’s series On Any Given Day in Spring and Light Balances on view now at Matthew Marks Gallery in Chelsea, NYC.

In all these photographs the beauty and wisdom of nature are rendered explicit. Implicit is the unavoidable suspicion that threats from human activity of some kind lurk just beyond the frame. –Roberta Smith
From The New York Times online posting by Roberta Smith on 11 October 2012.
To learn more about Adams’ work, please visit his artist page.

Robert Adams and Critical Distance

You need not read Photography for Dummies to imagine the advice the guide might give to beginning photographers: avoid harsh light and extreme contrast, don’t waste too much of your composition with negative space, frame your images to be rid of distracting objects jutting into the frame, et cetera. If Robert Adams were to read such a beginner’s guide, he might rip it up and eat it. Adams is a rule-breaker. He ignores at least one—and sometimes all—of the above-listed instructions in every single photograph. When he does everything wrong, why does it feel so right?

The Robert Adams retrospective The Place We Live, organized by Yale, and currently on view in the Yale University Art Galleries, is reviewed by Julie Reiter in The Yale Herald. Read the full article online.
Learn more about Robert Adams on his artist page.

Quietly Ferocious Requiem for the Land

A prophet in the wilderness of modernity, the photographer Robert Adams has devoted almost five decades to decrying what fecklessly industrious humans have done to the landscape of the American West. “Robert Adams: The Place We Live,” a splendid retrospective exhibition of more than 250 prints dating from the 1960s to 2009 at the Yale University Art Gallery here, surveys an oeuvre that is as compelling for its understated style as for its moral ferocity. Accompanied by a beautiful three-volume catalog produced by Yale University Press in collaboration with Mr. Adams, the exhibition was organized by Joshua Chuang, the gallery’s assistant curator of photographs, and Jock Reynolds, its director.

From The New York Times article by Ken Johnson, August 30th.
Learn more about Robert Adams on his artist page.

A Rare Interview with Robert Adams

The Modern Art Notes Podcast is a weekly podcast featuring artists, curators, art historians and authors and is an independent production of Modern Art Notes Media. The show is produced and hosted by Tyler Green and edited by Wilson Butterworth. They recently interviewed legendary photographer Robert Adams, whose major 46-year career survey, the first such exhibition since 1989, is on view at the Yale University Art Gallery through October 28.

“Adams may be the greatest living American photographer. In the 1960s and 1970s he brought a new sensibility to photographing the most classic subject in American art, the land. By emphasizing man’s impact on Colorado and its suburbs in series such as “The New West” and “What We Bought,” Adams helped pioneer art that addressed our impact on the landscape and on the Earth. While Adams is best known for his work looking at America’s consumption of Western land, he has also photographed the land he loves in ways that remind us why he loves it.”

How to listen: To download the program to your PC/mobile device, click here. Or stream the program at

Robert Adams: Balancing Tenderness and Despair

‘If we come across innocence, beauty, caring, joy, or courage, even in lost places, are we not obliged to acknowledge them in defiance of ironists?” Not many artists today would dare to utter such nakedly heartfelt sentiments in public. Perhaps only Robert Adams, who wrote these words to accompany a lambent group of pictures he took of parents and children in the parking lots of a Denver shopping mall in the late 1970s and early ’80s, could get away with them.—by Richard Woodward

From the August 22, 2012 article in The Wall Street Journal.
Learn more about Robert Adams on his artist page.

Shaping a Legacy for the National Gallery

Robert Adams, the 75-year-old photographer who has devoted more than four decades to capturing the lush beauty and stark desolation of the American West, has been working with curators at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, selecting 169 prints from his own holdings for the museum to acquire. His choices not only chart his entire career, they also complement the 25 images by him that the gallery already owns.

From The New York Times article by Carol Vogel.
Learn more about Robert Adams’s work on his artist page.

Robert Adams Shortlisted for Prix Pictet Prize

Robert Adams has been short-listed for the prestigious Prix Pictet global award in photography and sustainability. The jury, which included Martin Roth, Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, Jan Dalley, Arts Editor of The Financial Times, and photographer Mitch Epstein, among others, singled out Turning Back, a body of work by Adams that deals explicitly with the forestry practice of clearcutting.

The theme of the fourth cycle of the Prix Pictet is Power which as a theme has great creative reach. Power embraces contradiction and paradox in equal measure. The same forces that result in disaster and despair can also generate hope and renewal. Advances in technology to generate renewable energy mean that the powers of the wind, the sea and the sun can now be converted into sustainable forms of energy.
—from the Prix Pictet website.

View More images from Turning Back.


The basics: Adams can most succinctly be described as a photographer of the American West. He was born in New Jersey, but his family moved westward to mitigate his issues with asthma, and he has remained there. Only after getting a Ph.D. in English did he really begin photographing, and he has been at is since, but quietly. He doesn’t email, he rarely takes interviews, and he lets Chuang come to him.

from the piece on NPR by Claire O’Neill