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57 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Photographers -- this book is your friend.
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...
Published on July 19, 2003 by Tom Brody

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars ...meh
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...
Published 1 month ago by Lamimarman


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57 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Photographers -- this book is your friend., July 19, 2003
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This review is from: Robert Adams: Why People Photograph: Selected Essays and Reviews (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. Another fine, insightful book on photography criticism is Light Readings by A.D. Coleman. A remarkable bit of insight by A.D. Coleman, for example, concerns his view of the typical amateur (page 164): "Typically, a snapshot of someone's relative at Grant's Tomb will show the relative too far from the camera to be identifiable and Grant's Tomb too close to be recognizable . . . Their charm and poignancy derives specifically from their failure to communicate . . ."The writings of Robert Adams and A.D. Coleman may be contrasted with the poetic commentary David Wallace (in Morley Baer's The Wilder Shore) and with the "writing" of Sally Eauclair in The New Color Photography and New Color/New Work. The writings of David Wallace and Sally Eauclaire are silly, and sometimes very silly, and serve only to draw attention to the words printed on the page instead of serving to invoke new concepts and connections in the mind.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dog eared and well thumbed, July 6, 2002
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Title might not be accurate, but book is nonetheless terrific, November 2, 2006
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Ramsey (Morristown, NJ, United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Robert Adams: Why People Photograph: Selected Essays and Reviews (Paperback)
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Adams writes about photography as well as he photographs, August 25, 1998
By A Customer
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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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not Just Photography, February 25, 2010
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This review is from: Robert Adams: Why People Photograph: Selected Essays and Reviews (Paperback)
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
5.0 out of 5 stars In full agreement with Chris Akin, January 11, 2008
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This review is from: Robert Adams: Why People Photograph: Selected Essays and Reviews (Paperback)
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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3.0 out of 5 stars ...meh, December 29, 2014
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This review is from: Robert Adams: Why People Photograph: Selected Essays and Reviews (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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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why Do Peoples Photograph?, December 7, 2009
This review is from: Robert Adams: Why People Photograph: Selected Essays and Reviews (Paperback)
Comprehensible texts that talk about the `whys' of a subject are hard to come by. Often times those books are overly analytical and specific and can be a challenge to read, let alone get through. Fortunately Robert Adams holds an appreciation for simplification and utilizes this trait in his writing. "Why People Photograph" is a collection of essays in about photography. Adams focuses on subjects like writing, dogs, humor and colleagues, as well as short biographies of those who've mastered the craft.
Throughout Adams makes statements based on his own experience and beliefs. I often found myself in full agreement with what I was reading, if only due to Adams straightforward style, which made understanding his ideas that much easier.
Adams disregard for fluff and value of uncomplicated photography are strong points of this book. He disagrees with the practice of over analyzing (art) photographs (an aspect which shows through in his own writing), because "Art is by nature self-explanatory."
The essays from "Examples of Success" explore the virtues of a selection of master photographers. I think Adams' virtue of directness is apparent in this section of biographies. The way he presents each artist is both interesting in subject and comprehensible in description. He points out choices and explains the reasoning these photographers used, as he refers material they created. Adams manages to sum all of this up in each instance and yet is able to refrain from being overly analytical.
Consider this book as a guide to understanding the `whys' of personal and professional photography. It is an excellent resource for those who photograph especially, but also for those who are just curious (like myself).
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4.0 out of 5 stars to the point and great, June 23, 2013
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This review is from: Robert Adams: Why People Photograph: Selected Essays and Reviews (Paperback)
A short, interesting book. I reccomend to anyone that is interested in the world of photography or the world of art.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Think before shooting, is the idea behind the book and it does the job. The why can be just as important., January 23, 2013
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Gives anyone interested in photography food for thought. Helps you think about more than just what you are shooting
but also why you are shooting it.
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Robert Adams: Why People Photograph: Selected Essays and Reviews
Robert Adams: Why People Photograph: Selected Essays and Reviews by Robert Adams (Paperback - June 15, 2005)
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