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Robert Adams

BIOGRAPHY

1937-

Robert Adams has been photographing the American landscape for almost 50 years. His refined black-and-white photographs document scenes of the American West of the past four decades, revealing the impact of human activity on the last vestiges of wilderness and open space. Although often devoid of human subjects, or sparsely populated, Adams’s photographs capture the physical traces of human life: a garbage-strewn roadside, a clear-cut forest, a half-built house. An underlying tension in Adams’s body of work is the contradiction between landscapes visibly transformed or scarred by human presence and the inherent beauty of light and land rendered by the camera. Adams’s complex photographs expose the hollowness of the nineteenth-century American doctrine of Manifest Destiny, expressing somber indignation at the idea (still alive in the twenty-first century) that the West represents an unlimited natural resource for human consumption. But his work also conveys hope that change can be effected, and it speaks with joy of what remains glorious in the West. In 1989 the Philadelphia Museum of Art organized a retrospective of Adams's work, and in 1997 his photographs were included in Documenta X. Adams was awarded a MacArthur Foundation fellowship in 1994 and the Hasselblad Foundation International Award in 2009.