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ROBERT ADAMS
[b. 1937] American photographer
No place is boring, if you've had a good night's sleep and have a pocket full of unexposed film. - Robert Adams, Darkroom & Creative Camera Techniques , Page: 37

Henry James proposed asking of art three modest and appropriate questions: What is the artist trying to do? Does he do it? Was it worth doing? - Robert Adams - Beauty in Photography: essays in defense of traditional values (Aperture)

The word beauty is unavoidable … it accounts for my decision to photograph … There appeared a quality, beauty seemed the only appropriate word for it, in certain photographs, and I am compelled to live with the vocabulary of this new sight … through over many years [I] still find it embarrassing to use the word beauty, I fear I will be attacked for it, but I still believe in it. - Robert Adams, On Being a Photographer : A Practical Guide by David Hurn, Bill Jay , ISBN: 1888803061 , Page: 47
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By Interstate 70: a dog skeleton, a vacuum cleaner, TV dinners, a doll, a pie, rolls of carpet....Later, next to the South Platte River: algae, broken concrete, jet contrails, the smell of crude oil.... What I hope to document, though not at the expense of surface detail, is the form that underlies this apparent chaos. - Robert Adams

One does not for long westle a view camera in the wind and heat and cold just to illustrate a philosophy. The thing that keeps you scrambling over the rocks, risking snakes, and swatting at the flies is the view. It is only your enjoyment of and commitment to what you see, not to what you rationally understand, that balances the otherwise absurd investment of labor. - Robert Adams

At our best and most fortunate we make pictures because of what stands before our camera, to honor what is greater and more interesting than we are. We never accomplish this perfectly, though in return we are given something perfect--a sense of inclusion. Our subject thus redefines us, and is part of the biography by which we want to be known. - Robert Adams

Part of the difficulty in trying to be both an artist and a businessperson is this: You make a picture because you have seen something beyond price; then you are to turn and assign to your record of it a cash value. If the selling is not necessarily a contradiction of the truth in the picture, it is so close to being a contradiction—and the truth is always in shades of gray--that you are worn down by the threat. - Robert Adams

Philosophy can forsake too easily the details of experience… many writers and painters have demonstrated that thinking long about what art is or ought to be ruins the power to write or paint. - Robert Adams, On Being a Photographer : A Practical Guide by David Hurn, Bill Jay , ISBN: 1888803061 , Page: 75
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Your own photography is never enough. Every photographer who has lasted has depended on other peoples pictures too - photographs that may be public or private, serious or funny but that carry with them a reminder of community. - Robert Adams

The job of the photographer, in my view, is not to catalogue indisputable fact but to try to be coherent about intuition and hope. - Robert Adams - from "Beauty in Photography"

Why is Form beautiful? Because, I think, it helps us confront our worst fear, the suspicion that life may be chaos and that therefore our suffering is without meaning. - Robert Adams - from "Beauty in Photography"

Why do most great pictures look uncontrived? Why do photographers bother with the deception, especially since it so often requires the hardest work of all? The answer is, I think, that the deception is necessary if the goal of art is to be reached: only pictures that look as if they had been easily made can convincingly suggest that beauty is commonplace. - Robert Adams - "Beauty in Photography" 1996

The history of art is filled with people who did not live long enough to enjoy a sympathetic public, and their misery argues that criticism should try to speed justice. - Robert Adams - "Beauty in Photography" 1996
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Silence is, after all, the context for the deepest appreciation of art: the only important evaluations are finally, personal, interior ones. - Robert Adams - "Beauty in Photography" 1996
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...the only things that distinguish the photographer from everybody else are his pictures: they alone are the basis for our special interest in him. If pictures cannot be understood without knowing details of the artist's private life, then that is a reason for faulting them; major art, by definition, can stand independent of its maker. - Robert Adams - "Beauty in Photography" 1996

What we hope for from the artist is help in discovering the significance of a place. In this sense we would choose in most respects for thirty minutes with Edward Hopper’s painting Sunday Morning to thirty minutes on the street that was his subject; with Hopper’s vision we see more. - Robert Adams - p.16, Beauty in Photography.

I have asked students at the beginning of their careers, what things of that sort might haunt them – what things they must photograph, things they have to try to shoot even before they master the intricacies of making dye transfer prints. - Robert Adams - p. 85, Beauty in Photography.

Your own photography is never enough. Every photographer who has lasted has depended on other peoples pictures too - photographs that may be public or private, serious or funny but that carry with them a reminder of community. - Robert Adams

I suppose I usually work in units of pictures because I try to reach a diverse audience, and because I know, having lived on the edge of the world, how important books can be. I learned to photograph mostly by studying books, and I try now to keep up through books. - Robert Adams

I tried to keep in mind a phrase from a novel by [Yasunari] Kawabata: “my life, a fragment of a landscape.” The same applied, I thought, to each of us... - Robert Adams

Nothing is so clarifying… as to stand through the opening of an exhibition to which only officials have come. Experiences like that do encourage defiance, however. Why quit when you’re losing? - Robert Adams

Nature photography… that acknowledges what is wrong, is admittedly sometimes hard to bear—it has to encompass our mistakes. Yet in the long run, it is important; in order to endure our age of apocalypse, we have to be reconciled not only to avalanche and hurricane, but to ourselves. - Robert Adams

Both poetry and photography tend toward metaphor. - Robert Adams

Yes, photographs are only convincing if the photographer pays attention to the facts of life, but photographs have to point beyond the facts. - Robert Adams

With a camera, one has to love individual cases. - Robert Adams

Both poetry and photography tend toward metaphor. - Robert Adams

As all photographers know, one good picture next to another good picture and you have a third something. It may be better, it may be worse, but putting pictures next to each other inevitably influences the nature of both pictures. - Robert Adams

A photographer can describe a better world only by better seeing the world as it is in front of him. - Robert Adams

By definition art is not propaganda; the goal is not to excite people to action but to help them find a sense of wholeness and thereby a sense of calm. But from that we take courage for a re-engagement with the specifics of life. - Robert Adams

Photographers who can teach us to love even vacant lots will do so out of the same sense of wholeness that inspired the wilderness photographers of the last twenty-five years (the deepest joy possible in wilderness is, most would agree, the mysterious realization of one’s alliance with it). Beauty, Coleridge wrote, is based in “the unity of the manifold, the coalescence of the diverse.” In this large sense, beautiful photographs of contemporary America will lead us out into daily life by giving us a new understanding of and tolerance for what previously seemed only anarchic and threatening. - Robert Adams

Basically, you photograph because you like what you see. - Robert Adams

Landscape photography can offer us, I think, three verities—geography, autobiography, and metaphor. Geography is, if taken alone, sometimes boring, autobiography is frequently trivial, and metaphor can be dubious. But taken together... the three kinds of representation strengthen each other and reinforce what we all work to keep intact—an affection for life - Robert Adams

I’ve been so lonely trying to become a photographer. If I’d known that before, I don’t know if I’d have the courage to do it again. - Robert Adams

Photographers are open to gifts. As the poet John Clare wrote, “I found the poems in the fields / And only wrote them down.” - Robert Adams

Invention in photography is so laborious as to be in most instances perverse. - Robert Adams

Pictures should look like they were easily taken. - Robert Adams

Almost all photographers have incurred large expenses in the pursuit of tiny audiences, finding that the wonder they’d hoped to share is something few want to receive. - Robert Adams

For a shot to be good—suggestive of more than just what it is—it has to come perilously near to being bad, just a view of stuff. (1970) - Robert Adams

Many photographers in fact remind me in temperament of Thomas Hart Benton; in addition to painting, he said, what he liked was to “drink whiskey and talk big.” - Robert Adams

Photography is new, I submit, because it is among the few arts that have, through the twentieth century, remained attentive to the facts of this world, to the actual appearance of the place that troubles us. - Robert Adams

Mainly, you photograph because it’s fun. It’s serious too, but that’s the other side of fun. - Robert Adams

As I understand my job, it is, while suggesting order, to make things appear as much as possible to be the way they are in normal vision. - Robert Adams

When photographers get beyond copying the achievements of others, or just repeating their own accidental first successes, they learn that they do not know where in the world they will find pictures. Nobody does. - Robert Adams

Lewis Hine said he hoped to show what was wrong so that we would try to change it, and what was right so we could take comfort in it. I don’t often achieve that, but the two goals seem appropriate to me. - Robert Adams

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