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Book Review: What Can We Believe Where?: Photographs of the American West

Way out West

I thought this was a useful introduction (and very reasonably priced) to the creative photography of Robert Adams with 110 beautifully printed photos. Taken between 1968 and 2003 in Colorado (mostly around Denver) California and Oregon, they reveal the changing West from nature to a man-made landscape. Adams has devoted several decades to this changing geography.

The photos have all been published before in various books by Adams and I thought a listing of what books they have appeared in would have been useful to the reader. I'm particularly interested in how Adams covers the urban landscape and the Denver photos in the book can be seen in his two remarkable books: What We Bought: The New World: Scenes from the Denver Metropolitan Area, 1970-1974 and denver: A Photographic Survey of the Metropolitan Area, 1970-1974 with 310 photos in all.

The twenty-nine Oregon photos reveal a changing landscape of nature being cleared ready for industry and suburbs. A beautiful shot on page ninety-three shows part of a mechanical devise, with hydraulic cables, resting on the ground. It sums up the alien (a bit Geiger like, too) about to take over nature.

I've given the book for stars despite the wonderful photography because I thought the book's format wasn't quite right. Yale published the two Denver titles I mentioned and they come across as perfect photo books: right shape, paper and printing to bring out the best in the images. It would have made this book so much better if it had been the same landscape format and with larger photos so the detail they contain could be appreciated. In the book they 300+ plus screen tritones (almost like looking at the original prints) but smaller than I expected. The landscape format would have allowed them all to be bigger.

What Can We Believe Where?: Photographs of the American West (Yale Art Gallery) is available at Amazon (US | CA | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | JP | CN) and Book Depository

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Title spread.

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Right: this photo, taken in 1974, somehow seems just perfect and just stopped me page turning when I first looked through the book. Originally in 'The new west' published in 2000.

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Right: one of favorites in the book.

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