Robert Adams has photographed the landscape of the American West for more than forty years, particularly in California, Colorado and Oregon. His vision is inspired by his joy in nature's inherent beauty, yet tempered by his dismay at its exploitation and degradation. Adams uses photography to express his love for the landscape and to understand how urban and industrial growth have changed it, all the while insisting that beauty in the world has not been entirely eclipsed.
Adams was born in New Jersey in 1937 and raised in the suburbs of Denver, Colorado. He moved to Southern California in 1956 to attend the University of Redlands. He chose to major in English literature and went on to earn a Ph.D. in that subject at the University of Southern California in 1965.
When Adams returned to Colorado to begin what he anticipated would be a career in teaching, he was dismayed by the changes he saw in the landscape. He bought a 35-mm camera, taught himself the fundamentals of photography, and began making pictures infused with a love for the geography of his home state.
Adams's visual education came in part through the work of photographers who had preceded him in the West a century before, especially those of Timothy O'Sullivan, William Henry Jackson, and Carleton Watkins. Their work, together with that of Lewis Hine, Edward Weston, Dorothea Lange, and Ansel Adams--who often merged their social concerns with aesthetic ones--helped inspire Adams's style: a spare formalism coupled with emotional depth.
Since the 1970s, more than twenty-five books of Adams's photographs have been published, as well as two collections of essays, Beauty in Photography: Essays in Defense of Traditional Values (1989) and Why People Photograph (1994).