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A Closer Look -- The Place We Live

from the book The Place We Live

A few weeks ago my pal Jonathan Blaustein wrote a "non-review" of Robert Adams' The Place We Live, a retrospective selection of photographs from 1964-2009 on A Photo Editor.  In all of its headiness Jonathan's review made a few poignant and satirical remarks on the state of collecting and possible over-exposure of Adams' work as of recent. I agree, what else is there to really say about his work? With his current travelling exhibition and the ever-growing number of reprints of older titles, those of us paying attention are going to continually rehash and reevaluate the importance of such a prolific voice in photography. But by God, I can't stop picking up The Place We Live, and it's my turn to write for the blog, so here we go.

from the book The Place We Live
One of my top 5 photography books of all time is Summer Nights Walking. The new reprint by Aperture is incredibly gorgeous. I continually pick this book up, and it reminds me of nights walking through the dense neighborhoods of my childhood. This book always sucks me in -- it's dangerous to pick up on a busy day. While not as enticing, The Place We Live brings me back to the full scope of Adams' career. Its beautiful reproduction quality and large size fit well with the elegant and simple design, but elegant and simple is also at the heart of Adams' images.

from the book The Place We Live
 The three-volume set weaves Adams' most well known work together. From the prairies and suburbs of Colorado to the gravel roads of Wyoming and Nebraska, Volume-One provides a sweeping introduction to the photographer's earliest, and in my opinion, best photographs. Volume-Two takes the viewer to the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington,  as well as their inland landscapes of pastures and ghastly depictions of deforestation in the Northwest Forests. Volume-Three provides a visual anthology of Adam's monographs and extensive essays and books on the photographic practice. The final volume also includes essays by Tod Papageorge, Joshua Chuang, Jock Reynolds and John Szarkowski, all of which provide thoughtful accounts of Adams' life and work.

from the book The Place We Live
Back to the subject of collecting, we all collect for different reasons. For me, collecting serves as a reference for both my understanding of the history of the medium as well as a way for me to track the pulse of contemporary trends regarding image making relevant to my own photographic practice. Adams' is someone whom I have followed, been influenced by and keep rediscovering. His photographs inform my broader scope of how social and environmental landscape photography has been shaped and why it continues to change. In my mind, Adams is one of the most important photographers of the last half century, and this book pays a timely tribute to his life and work. 

Selected as one of the Best Books of 2011 by:
Raymond Meeks
Kevin Kunishi
Anne Kelly

Purchase a copy of The Place We Live