Ecstasy and Secular Enlightenment

41zm9CCluhL._SL500_SS500_A book What Can We Believe Where?: Photographs of the American West by Robert Adams represents a search for freedom from the burden of the past, search for an alternative identity whose existence would fulfill a vision of how it might have been in its native, presumably perfect, state and where it may still be flourishing far from the cultural counterfeits of mainstream America. The search is down and in, an intellectual exploration of an America of the mind and imagination. The search is out and beyond, a restless, electric navigation of the senses, where ultimate satisfaction is a vanishing point somewhere in the middle of the country or beyond the rim of the known world at an unspecified location along the Pacific Northwest region.

This book is a migratory in the American sense. A journey across an America, both virtual and real, an interrogation really, a challenging of personal and cultural limits, as much an exploration of the psyche and the senses and the historical past, as it is a vision of the future. America is not a specific place or time, though it may express itself that way, but an idea, the shape of a desire that Adams reflects upon in an attempt to abstractly capture it formulaically and meditates upon in an attempt to eliminate the barriers between himself and his own experience.

Adams finds himself in a visual limbo, too courageous to escape from the burden of freedom that has been imposed on him. Capturing the experiential moment is the main thing. Adams uses photographs like a mirror, for him, images are only temporary, though inevitable barriers to the visual chaos he precariously navigates.
For Adams this body of work was his search, a physical necessity; an escape from what he was based on what he knew of where he had been. By widening that spectrum, altering and heightening it qualitatively, Adams may have hoped to become a new person.

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