Photographer uses rusty old cans to create tintype photographs of desert scenes

tin cans photo
© David Adams

David Adams has an incredible way of showing the inevitable and harsh marching on of time in the desert southwest, not only in the images he takes but in how he prints them. He uses old tin cans found in the desert itself as a platform for his photography. His art brings together these old reclaimed objects and his newer images, which are often of mature desert plants that are many years old. Part of the draw for Adams to use these found-again cans is because he has never known and untouched desert landscape -- it has always had the marks of human habitation on it. The cans are a way to illustrate this.

Adams writes, "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."

He states, "For this body of work, I collect 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."

Adams is represented by the Etherton Gallery.

Photographer uses rusty old cans to create tintype photographs of desert scenes
Time is as much the subject of these photographs as the desert scenes captured by photographer David Adams, who uses aged tin cans as a way to display his images.

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