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Yale University Press publishes paperback edition of Art Can Help by Robert Adams
Judith Joy Ross, Ryan Boyle and Mr. Brubaker, 1993. © Judith Joy Ross.

NEW HAVEN, CONN.- This summer, the Yale University Art Gallery, in association with Yale University Press, will release a paperback edition of the critically acclaimed publication Art Can Help, by American photographer Robert Adams (born 1937). Originally published by the Gallery in 2017, Art Can Help—chosen by Photo-Eye magazine as one of the best photography books of 2017 and the second-place winner in the Books category of the 2018 New England Museum Association Publication Awards—shares over two dozen meditations on the purpose of art and the responsibility of the artist. The first edition, published in hardcover, sold out its entire print run. The new paperback edition, available in summer 2021, puts this prescient book back into print.

In the brief essays in the book, Adams—one of America’s most renowned photographers—makes an argument for what art should mean to our lives. He advocates for art that evokes beauty without irony or sentimentality, art that “encourages us to gratitude and engagement, and is of both personal and civic consequence.”

“This slim yet powerful book was originally produced several years ago as the artist’s response to a world on the verge of environmental catastrophe and in a state of perpetual war,” shares Tiffany Sprague, Director of Publications and Editorial Services at the Gallery. “Today, Adams’s plea for art that asks us to find hope in natural beauty and the kindness and caring of others seems especially timely, and the writings in Art Can Help take on a new resonance—a new sense of urgency.”

The book begins with two essays on the works of the American painter Edward Hopper, an artist venerated by Adams. The additional texts in the publication focus on a wide array of important 20th- and 21st-century photographers, including Julia Margaret Cameron, Mitch Epstein, Emmet Gowin, Dorothea Lange, Abelardo Morell, Edward Ranney, Judith Joy Ross, Leo Rubinfien, John Szarkowski, Garry Winogrand, William Wylie, and many more. Several essays also summon the words of literary figures, including Virginia Woolf and Czeslaw Milosz.

Written in an intimate, accessible style, Art Can Help was designed and produced to evoke Adams’s seminal publication Beauty in Photography: Essays in Defense of Traditional Values, originally published in 1981 and now in its second revised edition (Aperture). In Art Can Help, Adams’s deeply personal reflections on beauty in art demonstrate the importance of seeing, making, and living in a way that, in Adams’s words, keeps “curiosity and moral sense alive.”

Robert Adams was born in New Jersey in 1937 and moved to Colorado with his family as a teenager. Before taking up photography in the mid-1960s, he was a professor of English literature. In addition to his many photography books, he has written insightful and eloquent essays on the practice and goals of art, which have been collected in the volumes Beauty in Photography (1981) and Why People Photograph (1994). He has been the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including those from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (1973, 1980); the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (1994); the Spectrum International Prize for Photography (1995); and the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize (2006). His work has been the subject of major exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2005); the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn. (2002); the Philadelphia Museum of Art (1989); and the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1979), and was the subject of a major traveling retrospective exhibition, organized by the Yale University Art Gallery, in 2010–12. Adams lives and works in northwestern Oregon.

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