Robert Adams

Robert Adams

1937 –


Robert Adams is a photographer who has documented the extent and the limits of our damage to the American West, recording there, in over fifty books of pictures, both reasons to despair and to hope. “The goal,” he has said, “is to face facts but to find a basis for hope. To try for alchemy.”


Weld County, Colorado, 1984


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Over the years he has also published four small books of essays and interviews (Beauty in PhotographyWhy People PhotographAlong Some Rivers, and Art Can Help). Of these the critic Richard Woodward has observed that they “are defiantly free of postmodern attitudes and theorizing, arguing that one of the chief purposes of making art is to keep intact an affection for life.”

In 1989 the Philadelphia Museum of Art mounted a mid-life retrospective of Adams’s work, and in 1994 the MacArthur Foundation awarded him a fellowship, both of which contributed to a financial stability that enabled Kerstin to retire from her work as a librarian and for the couple to move from Colorado to the Oregon coast in 1997. There they began, with Kerstin working as editor, to document the deforestation of the Coast Range, and eventually this effort resulted in a large exhibition and book (Turning Back).

In 2010 the Yale University Art Gallery created a retrospective exhibition that traveled widely, and published an accompanying three-volume catalog and portrait (The Place We Live).

Since then Adams has continued to call attention to clearcutting, but has, characteristically, balanced this with celebrations of living trees and of the sea (This Day, Sea StoriesA Road Through Shore PineAn Old Forest RoadTenancy). His effort continues to be, he has said, “to find redeeming metaphor.” In 2014 Adams was elected to The American Academy of Arts and Letters. A retrospective of his work is planned at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., in 2021.


A drive-in movie theater, North Denver, Colorado, 1969 © Robert Adams