The PhotoBook

August 13, 2016

Robert Adams – The New West

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Copyright 2015 (Steidl Edition) Robert Adams

Photographer: Robert Hickman Adams, Ph.D. (b. Orange, NJ – resides USA)

Publisher: Steidl Verlag (Germany) (first published by Colorado Associated University Press, 1974)

Essays: John Szarkowski & Robert Adams

Text: English

Hardcover book with illustrated dust jacket, sewn binding, four-color lithography, pagination and captions, printed in Germany

Photobook designer: Paul Weaver

Notes: This is a Steidl version of Robert Adams 1974 photobook of the same title which is a published photographic project resulting from his 1973/74 Guggenheim grant. Black and White photographs selected from this same project were also included in the now famous 1975 “New Topographics” exhibition at the George Eastman House (NY). There is not any overlap of the images in this book with the Eastman exhibition. Both this book and the Eastman exhibition share similar dispassionate urban and rural landscape images and I find it interesting to look at both of these bodies of work to grasp the larger context of Adam’s work at the time. And yes, I was drawn back in again to re-read Steidl’s 2009 edition of New Topographics, which I enjoy doing from time to time anyhow. Also interesting to note that Robert Adams was on the fence about participating in the Eastman exhibit as he was a fan of Ansel Adams’s environmental work at this same time.

Regretfully I do not own a copy of the 1974 version of The New West to compare with this version, but from prior experience with Steidl’s republication of seminal photobooks, I expect that it is equal to and potentially better in printing and binding than the original (which was clothbound with illustrated jacket). I also do not have the $1,000 plus to purchase a 1974 copy either.

This now classic book is divided into five sections that lead the viewer from the rural to the urban and concludes in the mountains; Prairie, Tracts and Mobile Homes, The City, Foothills, Mountains. You also get a subtle glimpse of Adams wry sense of humor as he usually seems to avoid signage, but apparently he could not resist with the house being built on the corner of Darwin Place. The body of work is a series of an anti-Modernist landscape images which document mankind’s encroaching developments in the New West of Colorado, providing what Adam’s calls “a normal view of the landscape”. And in the process Adams became a part of the continual process of redefining what “normal” is in the context to the landscape photography.

My only minor gripe is that each image has a huge white margin around it on the page and if the margins were reduced, could have allowed these wonderful images to be printed larger.

Recommended for those interested in the historical context of contemporary landscape photography.

Related photobook reviewed on The PhotoBook: Steidl’s edition, New Topographics 

Cheers

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