“This must be my student!” Ian says.
As I walked in to meet Ian Admas, I found him making small talk with a park ranger before he spoke to me. He greeted me with a warm smile and firm handshake. As I would begin talking with him about his life as a photographer, I would find that he’s the kind of person you’d enjoy having small talk with. His ideas and passion are brought to light in his conversations.
I met Ian an early Sunday morning at MD Garage, a small gallery near Cuyahoga Valley National Park which showcases its most recent exhibit Crooked River Contrast. The exhibit displays seven of Ian’s photos.
Something that stood out to me when I listened as Ian began explaining the development of the exhibit was his English accent. It’s somewhat faint, though the more you listen as he continues to speak you’ll notice that it’s there. He describes the photo below.
As Ian continued to take me throughout the exhibit explaining and describing the stories behind the various photos, I couldn’t help but wonder how someone from England could know so much about the small state of Ohio. Having gone through the exhibit I would now get the chance to sit down with Ian Adams and learn his story.
When did your interest in photography begin?
When Ian moved to Ohio he got a job at a big name accounting firm in downtown Cleveland, known as Ernst and Ernst at the time. He was able to make good living and acquire more equipment for his photography.
When about was the time you moved near Cuyahoga Valley National Park and how did that happened?
I’ve lived in Northeast Ohio ever since I came over in 1975. So I lived in the Akron area and then I got an apartment in Brecksville for eight years. Then I ended up working for Firestone Fire Company in Akron running part of their computer department. So I wanted to be a little closer to work and so I started looking for a place in Cuyahoga Falls and found the home that I’ve got in a little cape.
How did living in Northeast Ohio near the Cuyahoga Valley National Park influence your photography and relationship to the river?
My job is I am a full time Ohio landscape photographer, writer, and teacher. I spend far more time writing than I do taking pictures. People are amazed when I tell them that. I have a lot of photographs. I’ve been photographing Ohio for well over 40 years. I have a 100,000 color transparencies in 9 four door filing cabinets in my basement office at home. And I have about 23,000 digital photographs mostly of Ohio. When I decided that I wanted to leave corporate America I just got fed up with stress. The money was great, but they moved Firestone corporate headquarters to downtown Chicago.
So I quit. I just didn’t want to do corporate stuff anymore. I started getting into photography as a hobby. I got very interested in it and was trying to figure out how to make a living at it. I had no interest in people photography. I had no interest in photojournalism what so ever.
It was very hard to figure out how to do it. My parents said hey this Ohio. You’re never going to make a living photographing nature and the landscape in Ohio. You have to go west. You know you have to go out to the Rocky Mountains, California, the New England Coast, anywhere but Ohio.
But I decided to stay in the state of Ohio. I started doing some photography for Ohio Magazine and eventually became a contributing editor for 12 years.
Often times while talking with Ian I would find he’d venture off from the question at hand, though as a listener I didn’t mind. His answers always offered more context to who he is. He’d often drop hidden gems from his personal life and experience. As he continued to speak there would be more to uncover. For instance, Ian is a huge Apple iphone advocate and fan. He is in fact awaiting his new iphone 11 pro which he ordered online. He waits in anticipation as he ponders over the 4-6 weeks estimated shipping time.
I now teach more Iphone photography programs each year than everything else put together, because every body’s got a smart phone. For the last five years all of my students have done the entire fourteen week course, including self published books and slideshows, just using their phones.
Ian himself recently published an ebook titled Iphone Landscape & Nature Photography.
What is it about landscaping photography that interest you?
Well one of the things is from a professional point of view was that very few other people were doing it when I started off. You know everybody was doing commercial photography. When I got into this in 1990 there was not a single full time landscape photographer in the state of Ohio. As far as I know there still isn’t. I’m the only one. There’s nobody else around here that just does nothing but photograph the Ohio landscape full time for a living. Not as far as I know. Most of the folks that I know that are doing it are just doing it as a hobby. They have other jobs and they just do this on the weekend for fun.
Ohio is where north meets south and east meets west as far as nature is concerned. We have so many species of animals, birds, plants, trees that you wold need multiple lifetimes to find them all, never mind photograph them. So it has kept me completely busy and completely occupied for 30 years as a professional photographer and writer.
Do you think the photographs in the Crooked River Contrast exhibit helps influence awareness of the river and Ohio’s environmental health?
Most of the people that comes into look at these photographs assuming they read the captions, they don’t know most of this stuff. They don’t know what’s been going on with the river. They may be vaguely aware of the fact the river has had some environmental issues. Though, if you look at all of these photographs and you read the captions then you learn a lot about what’s happened in the Cuyahoga River.
What do you find is most impactful about your landscaping photographs of Ohio?
I have a couple of books in the car. Two of the books I’m most proud of are called The Photographers Guide to Ohio. I did the first one in 2011 for Ohio University Press.
Nobody had ever written a book on the best places to photograph outdoors in the state of Ohio. I spent several years on that and it turned out very well. In fact it turned out so well that a year after it came out we realized there were so many things that should’ve been in that volume that were not. I embarked on a volume two of that book which took me four years.
In concluding my conversation with Ian I learned so much about him and also so much more about the state of Ohio. Ian’s knowledge is rich in Ohio’s history, partially influenced by the curiosity he finds in photography. Ian has made a home of Ohio and he repays his gratitude by spreading his knowledge, skills, and ideas. You can learn more about Ian Adams and his photography by visiting ianadamsphotography.com.
Ian is currently enjoying a break from work with publications. Instead he will soon enjoy a vacation of nothing but nature and his camera, and hopefully his new iphone.