The views of the American West collected in Robert Adams: From the Missouri West evoke a wide range of memories, myths and regrets associated with America’s frontier. In the 19th century, that frontier began at the Missouri River, beyond which lay a landscape of natural grandeur and purity. When Robert Adams (born 1937) shot that landscape, between 1975 and 1983, the hand of man had not so much disfigured as domesticated that paradise. Humans had left their marks almost casually, with the assurance of absolute triumph. Adams recorded these intrusions with neither judgment nor irony; the land he shows has simply been changed, reduced, made ordinary. Yet a second look makes it apparent that the hand of man has, after all, its limitations.
First published in 1980, From the Missouri West marked a watershed in the history of landscape photography by reclaiming the West’s sublimity as again worthy of rigorous consideration. The link between Adams and photographers who surveyed the Western landscape more than a century earlier--in particular Timothy O’Sullivan--is drawn out in this re-edited and substantially enlarged edition of the classic book.
“Because I had lost my way in the suburbs, I decided to try to rediscover some of the landforms that had impressed our forebears,” remembers Robert Adams. “Was there remaining in the geography a strength that might help sustain us as it had them?”