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I sometimes feel it necessary to justify my affection for the work of Robert Adams (though fortunately this occurs less often than it used to), especially with other photographers.  But what can you really say about his work?  It defies easy description, but it rewards close attention.

Adam’s new book Gone?  Published by Steidel, released just a few weeks ago is a very fine volume, well sequenced, well printed, and full of the mystery of light on the land.

Robert Adams, Gone?, pg 106-107

The triptych of photographs above appear on page 106 and 107 of the book are one example of this.  The first image shows cottonwood trees overhanging a country road, on a perfect spring day.  On the right of the image is a picnic table beside the road, inviting travelers to stop and rest, while on the left, a small country church nestles in the trees.  There are two trucks in front of the church, so perhaps this is a Sunday morning, and people are worshiping inside. The next frame is of the same church on the same morning, along with two trees worthy of Atget, but now we can see that the two trucks are the only vehicles near the church, so maybe it isn’t a Sunday after all.  The third picture makes the scene clear:  three men on ladders are facing the outside of the church, which could use a coat of paint, scraping.  Noticeably absent from any of the pictures is a sign indicating the name of the church or the denomination, and there is no paved parking lot or even a power line going to the church.

Why are these men painting this church?  The only answer given here is this:  because someone cares.  It doesn’t matter if these men are members of the congregation, volunteering their Saturday to paint the church they have attended all their lives, or if the funds were donated by someone long gone to the city—the painters prove that someone believes enough that a white church in the sun matters.  Painting the church is an act of faith and love—as was the making of these photographs.


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