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Alex Benjamin

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Haven't run into Robert Adams' name very often here, which I find surprising, considering the quality of the work. This past year, I've read through both of his books of essays - Why People Photograph and Beauty in Photography -, and purchased some of his photographic books, including the latest retrospective, American Silence, by Aperture.

Ran into this great quote by him: "Recently I saw someone—I can’t remember who it was—who said that the essence of the creative act is determining what the question is. Once you have the question, then it’s all pretty much in the can. I believe if your list of questions is long, that shows you’re on top of this."

The more I delve into his work, the more my admiration grows for both the thinker and the photographer.

Any other fans out there?
 

AZD

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I picked up a copy of Denver earlier this year and have enjoyed it. His images of the unnatural environment are as striking as “prettier” landscapes favored by many other photographers, and they make you ask questions you might not think of otherwise.

The construction sites and identical houses in Denver look so much like the Salt Lake Valley of the 80s they could be easily confused. So besides questions about land use and what counts as a good image, there’s also a bit of nostalgia for me, good or bad.
 

logan2z

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I'm a huge fan, I probably have 20 or more of his monographs and have seen several exhibitions of his prints.

If you're looking for more books of his, Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco had 'Prairie' on sale for Black Friday for $28. Fantastic book. A few of his other books were on sale as well.
 
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After reading Beauty in Photography and Why People Photograph I was hooked. His writing is crisp and penetrating. His images were unique for the times. He does not get the attention he deserves. I could buy every book he produces.

His early work captured the quality of the intense light falling on the front range of the Rockies.

The book What Can We Believe Where? Photographs of The American West contains a range of his style. Give yourself an assignment to photograph trees and than study how Robert Adams did it.

His images are quiet. They are distinguished by economy.

Many will think his prints boring. I suggest for those who do to dig into his work and read. And also think how you might photograph a similar project. Than you gain more appreciation as the subject matter is not eye catching and over printed using dramatic contrast.

“ In common with many photographers, I began making pictures because I wanted to record what supports hope: the untranslatable mystery and beauty of the world. Along the way, however, the camera also caught evidence against hope, and I eventually concluded that this too belonged in pictures if they were to be truthful and thus useful.” Robert Adams
 
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Alex Benjamin

Alex Benjamin

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I'm a huge fan, I probably have 20 or more of his monographs and have seen several exhibitions of his prints.

If you're looking for more books of his, Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco had 'Prairie' on sale for Black Friday for $28. Fantastic book. A few of his other books were on sale as well.

Thanks for the info on the book sale. I'll take a look (I don't have "Prairie").

For those who are interested, brilliant essay here on Robert Adams by Tod Papageorge : https://americansuburbx.com/2011/07/robert-adams-missing-criticism-what-we.html
 
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Alex Benjamin

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Many will think his prints boring. I suggest for those who do to dig into his work and read. And also think how you might photograph a similar project. Than you gain more appreciation as the subject matter is not eye catching and over printed using dramatic contrast.

I absolutely love Tod Papageorge's analogy when speaking about Adams' mastery of black and white tonalities: "This pitiless light, virtually combusting in the thin Colorado air, was, I thought, an invention born in the certain glare of the place of course but also in Adams’s intentional wringing out of the tonal range of his prints to the bright end of the photographic gray scale — roughly comparable to a composer writing for the piano at its highest octaves." (emphasis mine)
 

Pieter12

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I would recommend "American Silence: The Photographs of Robert Adams." Just published, it has photos from a variety of his projects.
 

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I would recommend "American Silence: The Photographs of Robert Adams." Just published, it has photos from a variety of his projects.
I've heard good things about it. I didn't buy it because I already have so many of his books and also have 'The Place We Live' which is a three-volume retrospective set. Great book and beautifully printed by Steidl, BTW.
 

Arthurwg

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I'm a huge fan of Robert Adams. I had the chance to talk with him in Oregon a few years ago. Great guy and so brilliant. I see him as a major influence on another favorite, Lewis Baltz. Seems like a natural progression.
 

sasah zib

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an update to thread:

in conversation about American Silence.
discussion includes making of the book.
 

logan2z

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an update to thread:

in conversation about American Silence.
discussion includes making of the book.


I watched it live last week. Definitely worth watching it on YouTube if you're an RA fan. I also bought the book despite having 20+ Robert Adams books that already contain almost all of the photos in it. But the essays were worth having.
 

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I'll be seeing the show at the National Gallery of Art in a few weeks and will pick up the book there. I can't wait to see it. The last time I saw a collection of his work was at the Yale University retrospective, maybe ten years ago.
 

logan2z

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I'll be seeing the show at the National Gallery of Art in a few weeks and will pick up the book there. I can't wait to see it. The last time I saw a collection of his work was at the Yale University retrospective, maybe ten years ago.

Jealous :smile:

I have the three-volume 'The Place We Live' set from the Yale University retrospective but that's the closest I came to seeing it.
 

logan2z

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Just got "Sea Stone"—quite different in my opinion from his earlier work. I really like it.

I had that one on my list too, but the handful of images I've seen from the book seem to duplicate work in other books I already have, such as 'Sea Stories'.

Do you happen to know if there's a lot of overlap between this book and his earlier books?
 

Pieter12

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It is a slim volume. I haven't seen the photos elsewhere, but I am not an authority on RA. There are only 26 plates, photos taken between 2005 and 2019.
 

Nitroplait

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"The New West" have had 'reprinting' status at Steidl for a while - I have no idea if and when it will be out. That's one I like ad to my collection.
RA is a brilliant photography writer BTW, one of the few that doesn't ruin the joy of the subject for me. I highly recommend his books of essays.
 

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"The New West" have had 'reprinting' status at Steidl for a while - I have no idea if and when it will be out. That's one I like ad to my collection.
I have the previous Steidl release, worth waiting for.

I'm waiting for Steidl's reprinting of 'New Topographics', but I'm not holding my breath. Steidl can be very slow to get books into print.
 

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"The New West" have had 'reprinting' status at Steidl for a while - I have no idea if and when it will be out. That's one I like ad to my collection.
RA is a brilliant photography writer BTW, one of the few that doesn't ruin the joy of the subject for me. I highly recommend his books of essays.

It's no wonder. He is very articulate, having a PhD in English Literature, and having started his career as an English professor.
 

Nitroplait

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It's no wonder. He is very articulate, having a PhD in English Literature, and having started his career as an English professor.

I think it is a unique gift that goes far beyond his education.
Well educated "curator speak" is able to suck the joy out of any art, and visual artists are usually better served by being visual artists rather than writers.

As hinted in the book club video, Adams manages to sincerely and eloquently write about art in general and thereby giving us an indirect glimpse into his own work.

I just took out my (2009) copy of 'denver' after reading the Tod Papageorge article and must say it a jewel of a book. I am so happy Robert Adams got a chance to do-it-right.
 

warden

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an update to thread:

in conversation about American Silence.
discussion includes making of the book.

I made it a little past halfway in that video but it became too frustrating to continue. It seems to me the first rule about interviewing a great thinker would be to interrupt them as little as possible.
 
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