The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 87, July 1983 - April, 1984 Page: 329
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personal prejudices of a man who is obviously out of his element when
dealing with culture. He seems to see the American West as an
empty, unspoiled landscape, neglecting to mention such things as In-
dians, animals, fires, floods, etc. His neglect of the Indian population
is most serious in this respect. Instead, Adams reverts to a tiresome
and misleading elitism in which he deplores the use of the West by
anybody, save perhaps himself. The noise, the inconvenience caused
by automobiles and trains, the distortion of light by dust and pollu-
tion, etc. are disturbances to his tranquility that he simply will not
abide. He escalates this personal irritation into classical tragedy. He
seems to feel that American freedom is fundamentally at fault.
Beyond this, he tells us very little. He passes over the photogra-
phers' works lightly, which is disappointing because here one would
hope that Adams could provide some interesting new insights. It is
refreshing to learn, however, that he does not think that Carlton E.
Watkins and Timothy H. O'Sullivan distorted their photographs to fit
Clarence King's geological theory of catastrophism. This at least dis-
pels the fable put forth by Weston J. Naef and James N. Wood. We
also learn that Adams evaluates nineteenth-century landscape painters
of the American West strictly according to their adherence to literal
reality. Thus, he likes Karl Bodmer, Thomas Hill, Thomas Worth-
ington Whittredge, and, of all people, Sanford Robinson Gifford. He
does not like Thomas Moran and Albert Bierstadt. It is obvious that
he has never heard of William H. Holmes, whose adherence to literal
reality surpasses even that of the camera. It is distressing, however,
to think that Moran and Bierstadt can be condemned for exercising
their artistic imaginations. If we follow this logic, there really have
only been two respectable means for depicting space: the horse-
activated cameras of Eadweard Muybridge, and the robot cameras of
outer space. This conclusion is not surprising, however, in view of
Adams's own values, which suggest that humans have no right to
tread on God's earth. From a cultural point of view, this is simplistic
and provides no aid in solving the very real problems confronting the
nation and the American West.
It is not clear who selected the pictures reproduced in what is ob-
viously a coffee-table book. It is also not clear why a university press
saw fit to publish a coffee-table book such as this. It offers no signifi-
cant contribution to knowledge.
The University of Texas at Austin
WILLIAM H. GOETZMANN
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 87, July 1983 - April, 1984, periodical, 1983/1984; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117150/m1/381/: accessed November 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.