David Emitt Adams
Conversations with History (2013)
"I was born in Yuma, Arizona, in 1980. By the time I was an adult the Arizona desert was far from that once documented by Timothy O’Sullivan. Never have I known this landscape without roads, homes, buildings or urban sprawl. This notion of land untouched by the hand of man is so foreign it might as well be make-believe. As long as people have been in the American West, we have found its barren desert landscapes to be an environment perfect for dumping and forgetting.
The deserts of the West also have special significance in the history of photography. I have explored this landscape with an awareness of the photographers who have come before me, and this awareness has led me to pay close attention to the traces left behind by others.
For this body of work, I collected discarded cans from the desert floor, some over four decades old, which have earned a deep reddish-brown, rusty patina. This patina is the evidence of light and time, the two main components inherent in the very nature of photography.
I use these objects to speak of human involvement with this landscape and create images on their surfaces through a labor-intensive 19th century photographic process known as wet-plate collodion.
The result is an object that has history as an artifact and an image that ties it to its location. These cans are the relics of the advancement of our culture, and become sculptural support to what they have witnessed.”