'Beauty in Photography'
by Paul ButziI was browsing through my collection of photography related quotations the other day, choosing one to put on the front page of my web site, when I noticed an interesting thing: quite a few of those quotations come from one source—a slim little book titled Beauty in Photography: Essays in Defense of Traditional Values, by Robert Adams.
For a long time, Robert Adams’ photographs left me cold. Judging by the comments I’ve seen in online forums when his work is discussed, that’s not an unusual response. There are a lot of folks who look at his photographs and think “What in the world is this guy trying to show us?” Adams’ photographs were a puzzle to me—the irritating sort, where you suspect that there’s something there but perhaps the artist has gone somewhere you can’t follow.
Then I wandered into a little bookstore and found Beauty in Photography there on the shelf, and I bought it. When I read it, I thought back over his photographs in my memory, and they started to make sense. A few years later, I snapped up a copy of Why People Photograph, which is a sort of companion volume [actually more of a sequel—BiP was published in 1981 and WPP in 1994 —MJ]. Like Beauty in Photography, it’s a collection of essays. And again, a few of Adams’ photographs became more understandable to me. It’s not that the two books directly talk about his photographs. It’s that his overall philosophy is there, laid out in his straightforward, direct prose.
If, like so many folks do, you look at Adams’ photographs and wonder what it’s about, you might find Beauty in Photography and Why People Photograph interesting reading.
Posted by PAUL BUTZI