Adger Cowans – ADGER

Review by Gerhard Clausing

Would you agree that images which come from the heart appeal to you the most? Then you are in the right place to survey the superb visions of artist-photographer Adger Cowans. He has been very modestly producing first-class images for decades, and lately has also received more of the accolades he deserves.

Adger Cowans was mentored by Gordon Parks early in his career, and able to break into still photography in major film studio productions. As an astute observer of life around him, and as one who also has always had a strong affinity to painting and graphic arts, his images are created with the utmost attention to composition, as he immerses himself and his camera in magical moments.

This photobook is a bit of a retrospective of Adger Cowans’ work, but with several unusual twists that raise it to a level far above many others. First of all, the typography as well as many other technical details regarding the duotone printing, the binding and presentation in an elegant custom slipcase, as shown above, as well as the internal design and sequencing, have all been given first-class attention – a class act, as expected from books published by Steven Albahari.

There is also a special feature throughout the book – transcripts of interviews that the publisher conducted with the artist have been processed by Collier Brown to produce what is known as erasure or blackout poetry. While most of the text recedes to a darker background, verbal elements from it are highlighted, semi-related to the text from which they are derived. The highlighted words can be read separately, or in conjunction with each other as well as with Cowans’ images, and thus tease new associations and meanings from the reader-viewer as they are contemplated.

And, most of all: the images created by Adger Cowans. As he says, our main ingredient is water, and so the patterns seen in many of his photographs, drawings, and paintings relate to the waves that sweep life along and might also have some meaning for our inner selves. The transitions from the tangible to the intangible are narrow and unpredictable, yet there is a feeling of great comfort and belonging we get from his work. The forms and patterns are bold and impressive; there is no meekness here, but strength. Printing the pictures and poetry on dark backgrounds makes them really stand out and gives us the feeling of sitting in on a slide show that holds important secrets of the past, yet points to the future as well.

Photographs, says Cowans, are abstracts taken from life, and the abstract slant he gives much of his work verifies the fact that even though life may be somewhat unpredictable, persistence and optimism can get you over a lot of hurdles, as his own life has demonstrated.

As one contemplates the many details, it is a great pleasure to get ‘lost’ in this photobook. Both the trade edition and the special edition with two signed platinum prints are sure to become collector’s items, as this production of the work of this important American photographer is truly of museum quality. Available exclusively from 21st Editions; there are also major exhibits and book signings.

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Gerhard (Gerry) Clausing, Associate Editor of the PhotoBook Journal, is an author and photographer from Southern California

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Adger Cowans – ADGER

Photographer/Artist:  Adger Cowans (born in Columbus, Ohio; lives in Bridgeport, Connecticut)

Publisher:   21st Editions/Steven Albahari, South Dennis, Massachusetts; © 2022

Texts:  Steven Albahari – introduction and interview with Adger Cowans; erasure poetry editing by Collier Brown

Language:  English

Hardcover, illustrated, in slipcase; 224 pages, paginated; 11.5 x 8.6 inches (29 x 22 cm); printed in the USA by Studley Press; bound by Roswell Bookbinding; trade edition: 530, special edition: 100; ISBN 1-892733-78-8 and -77-1 respectively

Art Director:  Steven Albahari

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Articles and photographs published in the PhotoBook Journal may not be reproduced without the permission of the PhotoBook Journal staff and the photographer(s). All images, texts, and designs are under copyright by the authors and publishers.

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