Just wanted to post the nice thank you that I got from American Prairie Reserve. I’ve received similar emails from Southern Plains Land Trust. Also I want my readers to rest assured that I am taking the profits from the book sales and passing them on to these organizations.
As I come across them I will be presenting prairie photographers of note. I’m enthralled by Robert Adams who may not be well known to even the most dedicated photophile. His works are held in many prestigious private and university collections. Here is a sample of some of his works.
I became aware of Robert Adams because of his shots in and around Denver, Colorado Springs and the surrounding prairie. I grew up in Colorado Springs. The first photo above is so evocative of homes of that era in the Colorado Springs. I was born in Simla, Colorado and Adams has numerous photos from the eastern plains of Colorado
We tend to define the plains by what is absent, checking maps to find how far we have to drive before we get to something—to mountains in the West or cities in the East. What, after all, are we to make of wheat fields, one-horse towns, and sky?
Mystery in this landscape is a certainty, an eloquent one. There is everywhere silence—a silence in thunder, in wind, in the call of doves, even a silence in the closing of a pickup door. If you are crossing the plains, leave the interstate and find a back road on which to walk; listen. - Robert Adams
Robert Hickman Adams was born on May 8, 1937 in Orange, New Jersey to Lois Hickman Adams and Ross Adams. In 1940 the family moved to Madison, New Jersey where his younger sister Carolyn was born. Then in 1947 they moved to Madison, Wisconsin for five years, where he contracted polio at age 12 in 1949 in his back, left arm, and hand but was able to recover. They moved one last time, in 1952, to Wheat Ridge, Colorado, a suburb of Denver, when his father secured a job in Denver. They moved to Colorado partly because of the chronic bronchial problems that he suffered from in Madison, New Jersey around age 5 as an attempt to help alleviate those problems. He continued to suffer from asthma and allergy problems.
During his childhood, Adams often accompanied his father on walks and hikes through the woods on Sunday afternoons. He also enjoyed playing baseball in open fields and working with his father on carpentry projects. He was an active Boy Scout, and was also active with the Methodist church that his family attended. He and his father made several raft trips through Dinosaur National Monument, and during his adolescent years he worked at boys’ camps at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. He also took trips on pack horses and went mountain climbing. He and his sister began visiting Denver Art Museum. Adams also learned to like reading. In 1955, he hunted for the last time.
Adams enrolled in the University of Colorado, Boulder in 1955, and attended it for his freshman year, but decided to transfer the next year to the University of Redlands in California where he received his B.A. in English in 1959. He continued his graduate studies at the University of Southern California and received his Ph.D. in English in 1965. In 1960 while at Redlands, he met and married Kerstin Mornestam, a Swedish native, who shared the same interest in the arts and nature. Robert and Kerstin spent their first few summers together in Oregon along the coast, where they took long walks on the beach and spent their evenings reading.
In 1963 they moved back to Colorado, and Adams began teaching English at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. In 1963, Adams bought a 35 mm camera and began to take pictures mostly of nature and architecture. He soon read complete sets of Camera Work and Aperture at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. He learned photographic technique from Myron Wood, a professional photographer who lived in Colorado. While finishing his dissertation, he began to photograph in 1964. In 1966, he began to teach only part-time in order to have more time to photograph. He met John Szarkowski, the curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art, on a trip to New York City in 1969. The museum later bought four of his prints. In 1970, he began working as a full-time photographer.
Critic Sean O’Hagan, writing in The Guardian, said “his subject has been the American west: its vastness, its sparse beauty and its ecological fragility. What he has photographed constantly – in varying shades of grey – is what has been lost and what remains” and that “his work’s other great subtext” is silence.
The narrator of the video makes a very valid point. Some landscape photos just hit you in the head with immediate WOW factor, but upon further viewing you are not left with much. I totally agree which is why when I am at an art fair I resistant of the “beautiful” pictures. Many of these are in color. This gets back to the idea that Black and White photography gets to the subject much better than color. The narrator feels that Robert Adams’ work doesn’t hit you at all but more or less encourages you to look further into the photo. As the recently deceased Ted Grant said:“When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in Black and white, you photograph their souls!”
Hopefully the readers of this blog will take the time to spend with Adams’ photography. Many of his books are available at a reasonable price; tho some have skyrocketed to the $300 range on the used market. I would recommend What Can We Believe Where?: Photographs of the American West to start with
Highway 50 is said to be the loneliest highway in America. This is the part that runs thru Southwest Kansas. It is part of the OLD US Highway system. 50 is a little over 3000 miles stretching from West Sacramento, CA to Ocean City, Maryland. A little explanation is in order as “they” are really referring to the stretch of 50 that runs thru Nevada. The pictures on Google Maps show it to be nearly abandoned. This stretch in Kansas is not that desolate but it is not the Connecticut Turnpike either.