Local Artist Spotlight: Phil Adams
What some people consider street photography has grown into something bigger for Phil Adams.
A self-taught photographer and Columbus City Schools music teacher, Adams only returned to photography in the last decade. He says in the last two years especially, his approach to photography has become more of a “spiritual practice,” along the lines of a premeditated ritual.
“I just started paying attention to what I saw in front of me, without really judging too much. The more I did that, the more meaning I derived from what I was shooting,” he says.
His work has been able to reflect his mindstate, like in his aptly titled photo “Losing My Marbles.” Strolling through a German Village alley, Adams shot a photo of some discarded Legos and marbles, and caught his disgruntled reflection in the process. “That happens often with me,” he says. “I’ll see things that appear to me as a reflection of whatever I’m working through personally.”
It’s the kind of imagery people often attribute to street photography, but stylistically Adams disagrees. Street photography focuses on people, he says, and in his work people play a much smaller role in a larger, less stringent composition.
“I’m more interested in the surroundings, the places that people live, the spaces and places that people create, and what happens to them, and the evidence that people leave behind them after they’re gone, and what happens to it,” he says.
His photos have been able to document gradual changes around Columbus, especially on the south side, where areas like Parsons Avenue have undergone significant redevelopment as of late. Adams often strolls south side alleys, because, “Alleys are the places where people throw things where they don’t want anyone to see them.” He says even German Village has its alleys, despite misconceptions that the neighborhood is somehow independent of change.
German Village, like many neighborhoods, has evolved considerably over time. And that is something to think about, he says.
“And that I guess is at the heart of a lot of what I’m doing with the camera these days. And as I’m doing it, asking myself questions about what exactly is happening to these neighborhoods, what are the driving forces behind the change, and what is the end result,” says Adams.
“What happens to the people that used to live in these neighborhoods and the people who are living in these neighborhoods now, and what kind of relationship do they have with each other,” he continues. “Just observing how money and power and influence can change neighborhoods.”
Like his other works documenting and commenting on the south side, Adams’ latest showing at the German Village Art League’s fall juried exhibition are photos shot near his home. He submitted three photos for the “My Best Yet!”, one of which reflects a tree inside of an oil spill on brick pavement.
While it’s true that Adams doesn’t necessarily photograph people, images like this still include people as the subject of a much bigger conversation.
“Somehow I can tap into these common experiences that we all have as humans, and in some way guide the viewer to look at an image and begin to ask themself about it,” he says. “And I think that is the greatest gift any artist can give anyone, is the opportunity for the viewer to discover something new about themselves when they look at a work of art.”
“My Best Yet!” will be on display from Oct. 23 to Nov. 9 at the German Village Meeting Haus, 588 S. Third St. An artist reception takes place Tuesday, Oct. 30 from 6 to 8 p.m.