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Thomas Peck’s Critiques

Marc Adamus

Thomas Peck

The real pleasure of photography is that it forces me to slow down and really look. That’s never easy in our rushed world, so a chance to stop, look and see is truly valuable.


Fearless Photography

There has been a lot of debate about the Sublime recently – in this publication and others. It is clearly in vogue. So I make no apologies for focussing on Marc Adamus in this article. A photographer who, in every sense of the word (awe, majesty, grandeur, fear etc), makes Sublime images. His style is hugely dramatic, intensely colourful, razor sharp. Describing them as ‘spectacular’ doesn’t quite do justice to his images. Take, for example, Fearless, Grand Canyon. This is more than drama, it is Über-Drama. Words feel slightly inadequate. We could say the image is bold, gripping, exciting, amazing, but these adjectives are still lacking; it feels more real than real. Like a 4k super definition TV screen - it sees more than the eye can see. It’s almost surreal, or maybe a better expression would be ‘hyper-real’. Standard superlatives seem too mundane… There is a sensory overload in terms of colour, saturation, form, subject matter. It is biblical in ambition, and for this particular image, almost Biblical in subject matter.

The biblical reference is quite deliberate. There is a strong analogy between Marc’s photographic style exemplified here and the artists of the late Sublime period of painting. Fearless, Grand Canyon reminds me, for example, of the apocalyptic visions of John Martin: The Great Day Of His Wrath, 1851-3.  

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  • I’m a strong believer that you can do anything you like to an image so long as it supports the underlying idea you are trying to communicate. So, in the case of John Martin’s work, he is trying to put across his vision of the biblical End of Days and a heightened sense of drama with plenty of fire and brimstone is entirely appropriate.

    Of the two Adamus pictures, the more successful is the Grand Canyon picture. It’s clearly manipulated but it’s in the service of a narrative – an idea carried through to its conclusion and informing the choice of Photoshop procedures and camera technique. It conveys something.

    For me, the ice bubbles picture falls flat. It says little of interest. The ice bubbles alone as an abstract would at least impart a sense of mystery as they are clearly fascinating. By adding the mountain and the apocalyptic light, the picture becomes less about the mysterious and beautiful bubbles and more the portrait of a mountain with disco lighting and an interesting, yet somehow less important, foreground. It says so much less than it might otherwise have said and seems rather confused about what it is trying to say.

    That said, Adamus’s images do seem to be popular so perhaps I’m just in the ‘sniffy’ camp. It’s either that or I’ve got a cold coming on… ;^)

    • Hi Julian,

      I agree with you Julian – surely a first! ;-)

      My main problem is not that his manipulation of the images support an artist’s vision, that is entirely legitimate, but the paucity of that vision. Adamus’ work, for me, epitomises the current striving for the spectacular, rather than a search to truly portray the sublime. I feel no sense of divinity when I look at his images.


  • Simon Miles

    This style of ‘extreme effects’ photography is undeniably popular and, whilst not to my taste, I suppose has its place. Is Adamus one of its more skilled proponents? In all fairness, I think he probably is. But inimitable? Surely not. This style of imagery is everywhere these days, and I for one am thoroughly tired of it.

  • Adam Pierzchala

    I find the storm image coherent, if not wholly credible, but the frozen bubbles in the second photo, reminiscent of the acoustic saucers at the Royal Albert Hall, are utterly incredible. They just don’t sit well with the mountain.
    And that, together with the heavily processed sky, has made this scene into a digitally manufactured product. That in itself is legitimate and some might argue it is art in the sense it is created by the author. Unfortunately for me this photo is very forgettable whereas the storm has more emotion; I can well imagine feeling awed if I were there to witness the lightning strike and so I am likely to remember it for longer.

  • Firstly, thanks Thomas for highlighting Marc Adamus’s work.
    These two images seem remarkable to me, and while the ice bubbles image may be less successful than the Grand Canyon picture, I cannot help comment on the exceptional craft and aesthetic skill involved in making both. Surely it is worth highlighting the technical brilliance of this work? And, yes, therefore it is also probably right to judge it by the highest artistic standards.
    Artists need time to practice their craft, sometimes decades to refine it. A tendency to bombast and displays of dazzling technique is typical of ambitious, precocious talents (think of the young Michelangelo, Rembrandt etc)… perhaps with time more subtlety and emotional depth – as opposed to limitless depth of field – will emerge from the camera of Marc Adamus. As it is, his work still bears the comparison with John Martin that Thomas has made, and that’s not a bad achievement. (Although it is more likely he may feel an affinity with Cole, Church, Bierstadt and other 19thC landscape painters of the American West.)

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