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Robert Adams
Gone? - Colorado in the 80's
HC, 26,5 x 26 cm., 116 pp.
Steidl 2010

After living in California for a number years, Colorado native Robert Adams returned to his home state and photographed the diverse landscape of the Denver suburbs, trying to measure how it had changed and remained the same since his childhood. His newest book is a collection of these photographs, all taken between 1984 and 1987. Jaded by his years in L.A., Adams' decision to switch from a heavy, tripod-mounted camera to a portable 35 mm was somehow symbolic; he was free again and allowed to roam on his own terms. The exact question asked by the book's title is never clear, and it is never exactly answered, but in this case the power is much more in the asking than in the validating or rejecting. Adams himself writes, "It has been many years now since I left Colorado, and occassionally friends there tell me of what has been lost. We share our griefs, but not infrequently the conversation turns to recollecting scarcely believable glories- near miracles- and we pledge to look again."

The photographs are virtuousic gazes-between-blinks of scenes buried in the heart from childhood. The book has the fluidity of a single day's wandering; it is as if Adams takes us by the hand as he walks from noiseless suburban intersections to grass filled fields to abandoned lots, in no particular order but in the logic of perfect thoughtlessness. In the first pages, we see two photographs of the same empty street (perhaps early on a Sunday morning) side by side. At first glance, they are identical. In the first photo, a bicycle rests crookedly on the left side of the street. In the second, after our eyes settle, we see that the bicycle is gone and a woman has come out of her house to unlock her car. Adams shows us the familiar poetry of the memory of every day life. Both an elegy and a rediscovery, this collection is an emotionally piercing portrait, perhaps especially to an American like myself who grew up in the 1980's suburbs, but probably simply to any lover of photography at all.


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