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Robert Adams: Why People Photograph: Selected Essays and Reviews Paperback – June 15, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Adams, a noted photographer of the American West, dislikes words that describe pictures. In this collection of poetic, thought-provoking and highly original essays, he examines Paul Strand's devotion to America and analyzes the origins of his art; he looks at the contradictions in Ansel Adams' life and work, and comes to his own conclusions. He writes movingly not only of people but of place--his beloved West--and his belief that "we live in several landscapes at once, among them the landscape of hope..."

Review

"At our best and most fortunate we make pictures because of what stands in front of the camera, to honor what is greater and more interesting than we are."
-Robert Adams

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 189 pages
  • Publisher: Aperture; 1st edition (June 15, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0893816035
  • ISBN-13: 978-0893816032
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #159,188 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert Adams, born in 1937, came to prominence as part of the photographic movement known as New Topographics. His work has been widely exhibited both in Europe and the United States. He is a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, the Spectrum International Prize for Photography, and the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Tom Brody on July 19, 2003
Format: Paperback
If you are not connected with any photography/art community, this book is for you. If none of your friends has an MFA, and if you are in need of someone who can speak intelligently about photography as art, then again, this book is for you. Robert Adams' writing is clear, concise, and insightful. Adams tells us why we photograph, for example, why we photograph landscapes. The answers include: because the images are of "emblems of a land" (pages 146 and 163), because our photographed subjects redefine us and is part of our biography (page 15), because art is "specifics made universal" (page 120), and because "art is a discovery of harmony" (page 181). Adams consoles photographers who come to realize that spending ten years doing photography won't necessarily result, e.g., in a contract for preparing a coffeetable book: "[t]hey may or may not make a living by photography but they are alive by it" (page 15); and the experience of having an exhibit where the photographer "stand[s] through the opening of an exhibition to which only officials have come." (page 16). Adams reveals the secrets of some of the masters, e.g., Weston: "limbs and torsos . . . treated as shapes to be enjoyed as one might the sight of a smooth stone" (page 64); and Paul Strand: "he worked off axis as if it were a moral principle . . . but usually just slightly off axis." (page 81) Robert Adams offers some critiques of the masters, e.g., of Paul Strand: "[o]ff-centering is used here . . . it begins to seem formulaic (page 87); and of Ansel Adams: "I have been derivative of myself for fifty years." (page 116). Robert Adams' book is a stand-alone book, that is, it does not require a knowledge of literature, art criticism, or history. The book is for the layperson.Read more ›
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Stuart Murdoch on July 6, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book has been of great assitance to me in my teaching and creative practice over the years. It has been a source of inspiration and motivation allowing me to continue working with my cameras and photography, at the same time reconciling different ideas about 'money', 'ideas', 'freinds', 'teaching' etc to enable me to maintain my faith in what I do.
The essays on teaching and money in particular have helped me clarify my position as both an artist and teacher, I highly recommend this book to anyone considering teaching or photography as a career.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Ramsey on November 2, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Most of the book doesn't really respond to the title, but Robert Adams writes in a very engaging manner and talks about issues that most photographers will find interesting. I found particularly interesting his discussion of famous photographers and their aesthetic philosophy. This is not a book for the casual photographer, but for the photographer who is interested in photography's background, or a collector who'd like to better understand the photographer as artist, this book is terrific.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 25, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This excellent book of essays reveals much about the motivations of photographers and provides thought-provoking subjects relative to a life in photography. Adams' writing is straightforward and insightful and an excellent inspiration in a sometimes confusing, but mysterious art.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Curtis Nugent on February 25, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I enjoyed the 3/4 of this book that dealt with photography. The last 1/4 was a treatise on environmentalism. Much of this was written more that 20 years ago and is outdated. For example Adams states that Republicans encourage illegal immigration while liberals want it halted. Today, 20 years later, the opposite seems to be true. Who knows what the political landscape will be 20 years from now. I enjoyed most the essays on various photographers.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By lilycoton on January 11, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It couldn't be better said.

This book is pure enjoyment. What a wonderful command of the language from this former English professor! Insightful and reflective, this book is about so much more than the obvious. Though perhaps the title is not that far amiss...

My only "criticism" would regard the desire to see more of the photographs to which Adams refers or describes in detail. He gives us very few opportunities to understand what he says by looking at the picture itself.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Lamimarman on December 29, 2014
Format: Paperback
I have read many photography books, have been avidly into photography for over 35 years, and this book leaves me puzzled. It's title is misleading. The book is more a collection of essays that in themselves are not true to the titles. In "Examples of Success," the author singles out several photographers as being successful (in his mind only since there are only a few photographers featured.) These "Examples of Success" only superficially address why they were successful, but most glaring is that he references many images that simply are not in the book. The last part of the book is his environmental rant and lamentation of the "loss of the West." This book is clearly slanted to early 20th century/late 19th century American photographers and photo documentation. Critics here are correct: he's a good author and gifted writer. But if you're expecting a great photography read this isn't it. Get some great coffee table books like "Americans" by Frank or a Joel Myerowitz book, then read "Sand County Almanac," you'll be further ahead with a much better visual and ecological experience.
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