An affinity for finding inspiration in untamed desert landscapes led us to the unique artwork of photographer David Emitt Adams. David superimposes his wet-plate collodion photography onto man-made objects, mainly old tin cans, turning them into remarkable works of art. His surprising approach to capturing the spirit of the desert awakened our curiosity and we had to share his story.
Growing up in Yuma, Arizona, David always had a fascination for the desert, yet never knew the landscape without the forgotten debris of urban sprawl. Rather than bemoaning “desert garbage,” he began collecting old cans, some more than four decades old, with the idea of turning trash into art. Once shiny cylinders, these vessels have become twisted husks of rusty tin discarded and forgotten on the barren desert floor.
Look closer and you’ll discover amazing tintype images captured on their surfaces, photographic tributes to the lost spirit of the American West. Using a 19th century process called wet-plate collodion, David produces images of his beloved desert on the metal, with the rich rust patina as his backdrop. The results are truly intriguing and quite beautiful.
Images of nature appear on the corroded relics, harmonizing the organic and manufactured forms. The pitted, rusty metal surface shows the effects of light and time, the two main components inherent in the very nature of photography. These objects have history as artifacts, which is only enhanced by the images connected to the place where they were found.
Today, David is represented by The Etherton Gallery in Tucson and is rapidly gaining attention. He calls his collection “Conversations with History” and it’s easy to see why. By capturing moments on timeworn surfaces, he creates pieces people can’t stop talking about.