“My work is a conversation with history, a space in which photography can haunt itself. At this intersection of the old and the new, I create photographic objects and installations that comment on both our history and current state of existence.”

David Emitt Adams is a recipient of a 2015 Artist Research & Development Grant.

Artist Research and Development Grants are designed to support the advancement of artistic research, aid in the development of artistic work and recognize the contributions individual artists make to Arizona’s communities. For more information about the Artist Research & Development Grant, click here.


For his newest series of work, Power, David Emitt Adams photographs the landscape of the American oil industry, specifically the power plants of Arizona and oil refineries in Texas. He creates the imagery on recycled 55-gallon steel oil drum lids by employing an 1850s photographic process known as wet-plate collodion, a process that involves coating these large metal lids in a light-sensitive photographic emulsion and exposing them in a hand-built 24”x 29” ultra large-format camera. In addition to building his own camera, he transformed a box truck into a mobile darkroom so that the photographs can then be developed on site, a requirement of the wet-plate collodion process. The results are photographic objects that speak both to the nature of the recycled material and the imagery on their surfaces.

David Emitt AdamsHistorically, a photograph exposed on to a metal surface is known as a tintype and was the photographic technology used to document the American Civil War and the birth of the industrial revolution. Viewing the energy industry through the lens of a historic photographic process encourages reflection on contemporary issues, such as our society’s reliance on the power industry. This work is strongly grounded in nineteenth-century photography, contemporary energy issues, and the environment of the Southwest.


David Emitt Adams is an artist whose current practice engages historical media in order to create an informed contemporary dialogue about photography’s past and present. Born in Yuma, Arizona, David obtained his Bachelors of Fine Art from Bowling Green State University in 2002 and a Masters of Fine Arts from Arizona State University in 2012. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Society for Photographic Education’s Crystal Apple Award (for excellence in experimental black-and-white photography), the Magenta Foundation’s Emerging Photographers Award, and the Nathan Cummings Travel Award. David is a board member of INFOCUS, the Phoenix Art Museum’s photography association.

David’s work is exhibited nationally and internationally, and is in the permanent collection of The Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, The Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, as well as numerous private collections. David has presented lectures on his work at the San Francisco Art Institute (sponsored by Photo Alliance), the Carnegie Museum of Art (as part of the f295 Symposium), the Medium Festival of Photography in San Diego, and the 50th Anniversary Society of Photographic Education Conference in Chicago. The Etherton Gallery in Tucson, Arizona and the Photo-Eye Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico represent David’s work.

Land Tracings

In June 2016, the Arts Commission presented an exhibition at Chartreuse, a contemporary art space on historic Grand Avenue in downtown Phoenix, featuring work by five members of the 2015 cohort of Artist Research & Development Grant recipients. These five artists work in various media and address multiple thematic concerns, but at the core of their artistic practice is a common need to document a passing moment.

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Artist Research and Development Grant Recipients Featured in Arizona Biennial 2015

The Arizona Biennial 2015 opens July 25, 2015 at the Tucson Museum of Art. Among this year's featured artists are three recipients of Arizona Commission on the Arts Artist Research and Development Grants: David Emitt Adams (2015), Lauren Strohacker and Kendra Sollars (2015), and Patricia Sannit.

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