Sheldon Museum of Art Main Content


Colorado Springs, Colorado

  • Robert Adams, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Selected by Judith Sasso-Mason
Financial Aid Specialist
Scholarships & Financial Aid

Robert Adams’s photograph Colorado Springs, Colorado is one of contradictions. 

If you were to read only its title, what would you expect to see—mountains or a grove of aspens, perhaps? Instead, we see a tract house that could be found in any mid-twentieth-century suburban neighborhood, anywhere in the US. 

The composition, which is divided almost evenly into thirds, is simple, spare with no sense of movement. We see a clear, cloudless sky; a tract house with the address 812; and a brightly lit, well-groomed lawn. The light quality is not soft, romantic or seductive. Rather, it’s glaring and gives the impression of hot, oppressive midday light. It’s certainly not the light quality that one usually finds in landscape photography. Obviously, Adams is not trying to sell the beauty of this landscape. 

We are given few details of this generic house, suggesting that Adams isn’t interested in its specific architectural features. The silhouette of an equally nondescript woman, caught in profile, becomes the focal point within the shadowed house. 

One’s eyes can’t help but remain on this solitary figure, starkly surrounded by bright light, the unremarkable architecture, and manipulated landscape. But there is no engagement with her. She doesn’t face us. She has been caught, frozen by the camera’s shutter at the midpoint of her house and at the midpoint of the photograph. She is nothing more than an element of the bleak landscape. 

Adams is clever in his construction and title of this photograph. We may think we should be viewing the dramatic beauty of the Colorado landscape, but instead we are presented with a numbingly sterile and isolated neighborhood that humankind has created there. There is no Rocky Mountain high here.