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Reshaping Robert Adams' Landscape

by Miguel Guitart Vilches
Miguel Guitart Vilches’ essay examines Robert Adams’ body of work and its recurrent themes, including the relationship between the built and natural environments, and the meaningfulness of life. The influences of photographers Edward Weston, Dorothea Lange, Edward Ruscha, Robert Venturi and the Film Noir genre on Adams’ work are analyzed.
Firstly, Vilches argues Adams’ photographs show a struggle between the natural landscape and the encroaching built environment, and document the resulting social and environmental transformation of the American West. Through his images, which record their subject with a sense of minimal framing, Adams communicates concern for these changes.
Then, the essay describes the socio-political context in which Adams worked, including mainly the perception of the violent, inescapable metropolis disseminated by Film Noir and fear of dense urban centres in the event of nuclear war. This contextualization builds a better understanding of the conditions through which urban sprawl was justified at the time the photos were made. These are the same conditions to which Adams’ work responds with criticism.
Moreover, Adams’ frank representations are believed to express acceptance for the new complexity and contradiction of the built landscape. The author suggests Adams, whose steadfast conviction in the beauty and value of form and order is referenced in this text, is trying to promote new perceptions of settlement and nature and to dispel any idea that this transformed environment, in its seemingly chaotic becoming, must mean the loss of meaning in our experience.
Miguel Guitart Vilches is a designer, writer and academic from Madrid.
Guitart Vilches, Miguel. ‘Reshaping Robert Adams’ Landscape.’ ZARCH: journal of interdisciplinary studies in architecture and urbanism, no. 2 (2014): 186 – 197.
Review by Lindsay Mamchur
July 2019
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