David Emitt Adams: Conversation with History

In one of his recent series, “Conversation with History”, American photographer David Emitt Adams takes photos of the landscape of the American oil industry, specifically the power plants of Arizona and oil refineries in Texas.
As the artist himself described his project, “I collect discarded cans from the desert floor, some more than four decades old, which have earned a deep reddish-brown, rusty coloration. This rich patina is the evidence of light and time, the two main components inherent in the very nature of photography. For this body of work, I manipulate these found objects through a labor-intensive 19th century photographic process known as wet-plate collodion. I create images on their surfaces that speak to human involvement with this landscape. The results are objects that have history as artifacts and hold images connected to their locations.”
Historically, a photograph exposed on to a metal surface is known as a tintype and was the photographic technology used to document the American Civil War and the birth of the industrial revolution. Viewing the energy industry through the lens of a historic photographic process encourages reflection on contemporary issues, such as our society’s reliance on the power industry. This work is strongly grounded in nineteenth-century photography, contemporary energy issues, and the environment of the Southwest.

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