Is Robert Adams’ work relevant to young photographers?


I love Robert Adams’ photographs. I first saw them in the late 1970s as a student photographer. I found them transcendent, rich with the details of the natural and human-made world, and was moved by their  profound beauty. I am still moved by his work but I’ve wondered how young photographers and artists feel about his work. Adams’ photographs demands that we look closely. He does not attempt to seduce us overtly and I would not call them entertaining, at least not compared to contemporary media. So my students and I read the text and images from Adams’ recent publication “What Can We Believe Where?” and I’ve posted their comments below.


I notice that Adams’ photographs are very still. Even though there is not much happening in the photographs my eyes constantly move through the compositions he has created. I find his photographs interesting because there is so much space to look around the entire composition. DR

Robert Adams has some great images, and I like him, but compared to photographs today, not many of them really stand out, except for maybe the time period they were taken in. Unless someone was really interested in the history of photography, or maybe the 70’s in general, I doubt they’d even look twice at his photographs. KA

Seeing the slide show of photographs from Robert Adams was the first time I had seen his work. I absolutely loved his photographs. Like Ansel Adams, Robert Adams’ work is an inspiration to me. The quality of both Adams’ works are perfect examples of what I hope to accomplish with my landscape photographs. NP

I think that Robert’s b/w landscape photographs has some interesting photographs. Even though he started as an English teacher and then decided to do photography, I think he has some nice shots of awesome landscapes. I like color but there is something about his photographs that make me like them and see them differently. I think it is because he uses a lot of high contrast and I like the high contras in b/w photos. They also seem as though he was looking to photograph somethings that he though was interesting and looked awesome. One of my favorites is the fair with the roller coaster game all lit up. It just looks amazing. His work is awesome and seeing other photographers work makes me think about how I photograph my  work and what I am doing with it. CC

Despite my lack of interest for the New Topographics style, Robert Adams has actually been somewhat of an inspiration to me. The unique composition he brings to his landscape photographs are quite interesting and, since many of his works were practically shot in my own backyard, I find the subject matter to be personal. I do enjoy studying his works whenever I have the chance, since he has inspired some many other photographers in their works. He continues to be one of those artists that I keep in my mental “reference book” whenever I seek inspiration for my own photographs. DR

Just wanted to say that I really enjoyed the slides featuring Robert Adams’ work. FB

I felt the photos had a familiar appearance to me, although I only recognized one of them as ‘iconic’ of American West photography (the woman in her house through the window). Something about the dusty richness presented in the photos gives it that small town America feel. The photographs have a power to surprise the viewer if gazed at for a longer period of time. Their mundane simplicity with sharp, square and geometric compositions invite a curious photographer like me to look closer for more information. I found myself trying to come up with reasons for the images – maybe stories to go with them. This is my tendency with most pictures. Adams’ photos also carry with them the essence of layers. Some of the images seem segmented and piled up, almost as if one component was dropped right onto another.  He must have had an interest in composing with the element of line. KW

In response to your inquiry of the Robert Adams’ photographs, I found the photographs interesting because at first glance they merely seem to be just landscapes, but there is some sort of mysterious vibe the photos give off, which makes me start to wonder what is going on in the picture that he wanted to capture it at that moment.  I also looked at other work of his online, and I especially like the ones taken at night and the illumination of the photo comes from artificial light sources. TN

Of the photos we looked at, I liked the neighborhood shots.  Also, I was taken with the photos of structures and roads.  The photographs of the corner store in the small town and of the Equity tower I thought were particularly striking.  The kinds of things I would like to capture.  I did not get much from the leaf photo that you enjoyed.  The photograph with the silhouette of the woman in the house was awesome I thought.  And I loved the shot with the camper in it.  Overall, seeing Mr. Adams work was a benefit.  I helps me see what I do in a more favorable light.  I really like his work. EM

In response to Robert Adam’s work I thought that some of his photographs were extremely striking, the one taken from the outside of a house into a window with a figure standing in the window was my favorite. Other photos I thought were really nothing special. I might think differently if I knew more about him, what camera he used etc. because without that information his photographs just didn’t have anything to keep my attention. CM

NOTE: A Retrospective of Robert Adams’ photographs will appear at The Los Angeles County Museum of Art starting on March 22,  2012.

Here is a link to the press release: