“As long as people have been in the American West, they have found its barren desert landscapes to be ideal for dumping detritus. Today, the notion of land untouched by humans is so foreign it might as well be make-believe.
For pieces in the series Conversations With History, I collect discarded metal objects from massive dump sites in the Sonoran desert, generally along debunked railroad lines. Some of these objects are 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. Once collected I manipulate these objects through the labor-intensive 19th-century photographic process known as wet-plate collodion, creating a tintype photograph on the object’s surface. The results are photo-sculptures that have history as artifacts and hold images connected to the locations where they were found. Desert Combines No. 2 pushes the sculptural aspect of this series even further. The cantilever assemblage balances the fragile photograph precariously, emphasizing the delicate relationship between humans and the environment.”
—David Emitt Adams
David Emitt Adams. Desert Combines #2, 2018. Before We Arrived, 2014, from the series Conversations with History. Tintypes on found objects © David Emitt Adams, courtesy Etherton Gallery.