Ansel Adams at 111

Discussion in 'Photographers' started by Rafal Lukawiecki, Feb 20, 2013.

  1. Rafal Lukawiecki

    Rafal Lukawiecki Subscriber

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    Today would have been Ansel Adams 111th birthday. I think he is even more relevant today than ever. He has managed to live a full life during which he focused on what mattered to him, while avoiding the entrapments of wealth, and staying away from poverty. There is much one can learn from his example, and I have just written a short blog post, http://rafal.net/?p=1463, as a way of saying a "thank you" to this amazing man.

    Happy Birthday, Ansel!
     
  2. batwister

    batwister Member

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    Eleventy one! Still need to see the London show.
     
  3. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    That was great!

    Jeff
     
  4. Pioneer

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    I think Ansel was my earliest introduction to photography. My folks had a large coffee table book with a few of his images that I would look at for hours. For years I remember wanting to take pictures just like his. I know now that there are many other photographers who produced awesome work, but he still has a special attraction for me. Thanks for the reminder.
     
  5. mjs

    mjs Member

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    I picked up Andrea Stillman's book "Looking at Ansel Adams" this past weekend and have been reading it. In my opinion, it's a worthwhile addition to the works about Adams.

    Mike
     
  6. AgX

    AgX Member

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    Maybe it's just me, but my impression is that Ansel Adams was quite unknown to most photographers over here and just got more publicity due to the internet. I can't remember having seen his books at a public library either.
     
  7. cepwin

    cepwin Member

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    Beautifully expressed...well done!
     
  8. Argenticien

    Argenticien Member

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    He was The Master. His combination of artistic ability and technical knowledge was just off-the-scale ridiculous. For me, the defining bit of Adams on Adams is in his book The Negative, Figure 6-2 on pages 126-127 (in the edition I have, anyway), where he describes the making of Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico. In the very lengthy caption to this figure, he explains how he knew off the top of his head the luminance of the Moon (at the particular position it was at that moment) in absolute units of candles per square foot, and computed an exposure in his head, and remembered to include a filter factor. Mind you, all this after scurrying frantically to set up this shot with a cumbersome 8x10 before the scene changed, and exchanging the front and back elements on his Cooke lens, and dialing in a focus-shift adjustment. I read all that and just thought "YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING. How does one ever match that!?!?!" It sounds like a minor miracle to have got a shot fired off at all, never mind well composed, yet he did it all flawlessly and ended up with this absolutely epic, famous, incomparable picture. Bow to the master...

    --Dave
     
  9. whowantstoast

    whowantstoast Member

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    I live near Yosemite and make my way up several times a year, and I shoot there a lot. But I always stop at the Ansel Adams Gallery, because there are usually at least two of his prints for view and sale. They are the most amazing things, they practically glow off the wall. Seeing these works in person is very important to me, it reminds me that photography is not as mundane as it can seem in our over-exposed world. When you see the real thing, all photography becomes special again, and the possibility of someday making something that beautiful is enough to make me want to keep learning, keep shooting, keep trying to get better. I know there are others who have this impact, but Ansel has left us with an incredible legacy of beauty, and he backed it up by trying to pass along knowledge as well. And when you walk out of that gallery and look to your right and see Yosemite Falls, and to your left and see Half Dome, you get a chilling sense of his appreciation for both nature and the way we humans lovingly portray it.
     
  10. batwister

    batwister Member

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    Great comment. It's fashionable to be snooty about Ansel, especially for those immersed in one dimensional objectivity. It's as if, for some critically engaged photographers, appreciating Ansel Adams is akin to cognitive dissonance. I spend time with a variety of classic and contemporary work - I don't belong to either tribe. I always go back to Ansel at some point, who provided the foundation for beauty in photography. There's not only room for more beauty in contemporary work, but arguably a great need for it. It doesn't have to be saccharine or new age - that's where your intelligence comes in.
     
  11. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    I find the idea of celebrating dead peoples birthdays when they can't eat the cake or open the presents a little bizarre.
     
  12. silveror0

    silveror0 Member

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    The humor is accepted, but homage to this man - to whom we owe so much - is not in the least bizarre.
     
  13. Terry Christian

    Terry Christian Subscriber

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    Perhaps, Benji, but I'd rather celebrate his birthdate than his death-date!
     
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  15. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    Hi Terry, it's just me, and the way I look at things, I believe that celebrating his life and achievements rather than his birthday in the conventional sense would be a little more appropriate.
     
  16. StoneNYC

    StoneNYC Subscriber

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    Rafal, you must have been well off at some point in your life for you to view wealth as an entrapment, I agree Ansel was a great photographer and created amazing prints, but to say he avoided wealth is like saying man avoids food and sex, yes there are monks who abstain from such things for periods of time, but I just think in the real world, anyone who came up poor would never make a statement like this, I grew up poor and I'm still poor, I don't NEED to be wealthy beyond my dreams, but I certainly would like to be able to live comfortably, wealthy would be wonderful to me, I dream of wealth, because it's very hard to be inspired and to persevere when you have nothing...
     
  17. Robert Liebermann

    Robert Liebermann Member

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    Great! I was trying to mention that birthday to someone, but couldn't find the place to slip it in. I noted the birthday on my 1985 Earth First! calendar (which matches 2013). Because AA is the one photographer most people can name, if they can name any, people seem afraid to mention how great he was - besides being an absolutely solid photographer who knew every step of the process fully, he was a great writer and teacher, a conservationist, an activist, and not afraid to say what he thought. It's getting harder to be able to find /any/ of these qualities anymore. Where are all the icoloclasts these days?
     
  18. StoneNYC

    StoneNYC Subscriber

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    What's an earth first calendar?


    ~Stone

    Mamiya: 7 II, RZ67 Pro II / Canon: 1V, AE-1, 5DmkII / Kodak: No 1 Pocket Autographic, No 1A Pocket Autographic | Sent w/ iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  19. Argenticien

    Argenticien Member

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    And a talented pianist. Where are all the polymaths and Renaissance persons these days? In fact, a talented pianist first; his autobiography describes how that's what he was first trained for and got to near-professional proficiency. Being selfish for a moment on behalf of photographers, we are lucky he ended up changing careers and that we have his lifetime of pictures and writings left to posterity. Of course since Adams lived in the 20th Century, not the 17th, we would have a lifetime full of his performances preserved on tape for posterity to hear if he had gone on to be a musician of similar prominence to what he was as a photographer.

    --Dave
     
  20. batwister

    batwister Member

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    He played accompaniment mostly though and didn't feel he had what it took to be a concert player. The average person doesn't understand what it means to be a great pianist, they are easily pleased - likewise with photography for most too - "that sunset picture is a MASTERPIECE! You're a GENIUS!" I very much doubt he would have got to the same level with music as he did photography. But I do wonder if we would have ended up with a 'tone system'? :smile: Please don't mention Twelve tone...
     
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  21. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    I remember our photo class took a field trip to Carmel California during the early 80's. I was exploring the city and went to the Weston Gallery. I remember a Cadillac parked in front of the gallery with a California license plate "Zone V". Didn't think much of it. When I stepped inside, there was a bald burly man signing a book with big arthritic hands. It was Ansel. I told a classmate that I saw him. He said to me "You saw God Adams?"
     
  22. Rafal Lukawiecki

    Rafal Lukawiecki Subscriber

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    Thanks, everyone, for your comments. It is interesting that not only we appreciate and remember Ansel Adams so fondly, but that he still manages to evoke emotion in your comments. To me, that is another sign how relevant he is today.

    You make a good point, StoneNYC, and thank you for sharing something so very personal about yourself. I think I should have worded my observation about his life as "avoiding the entrapments of excessive wealth" rather than simply "avoiding the entrapments of wealth", but I definitely did not mean to say that he avoided wealth—I wished to focus on the entrapments of it, the negative side that often comes with excess. I suppose this is a point about one's philosophy of life, but what I was trying to share in my article was that I am inspired not only by Ansel Adams's work and teachings, but also by his life, in which combining frugality, endless optimism, and a way of reducing his needs, he was able to achieve the goals of a happy life, doing what he liked doing the most. At the same time, I can see examples of many famous persons, especially nowadays, their formidable skills and fame leading them to wealth—perhaps excessive wealth from some perspectives—that seemingly takes over their lives in an endless pursuit of even more wealth.Maybe they still do not feel wealthy and just need to carry on... Ansel Adams had the wisdom to know what was enough for him, and indeed it was not an awful lot by his contemporary standards.

    As for your point about being well off at some point in my life, I can say that I have never felt poor. When I emigrated from Poland some 23 years ago that country was considered poor, but I have never felt it. Out family lived happily on less than $1 per day, and by the time I left it, I had about $100 in my pocket, of which I saved $50 over a period of a few years, and I borrowed the remaining $50 from a few neighbours. When foreigners visited us, they always felt for us being poor for not having some things that seemed important to them, which was surprising to us, often funny—the only thing we didn't really have was freedom, and that was the only thing that really mattered, then... With that $100, I had been lucky to begin a new life, find good education, work, and eventually start my own, small company, first in UK then in Ireland. I am well respected in what I do in business, and I employ a few people, satisfying all our needs, helping me invest in my photography and letting me have time for it. Still, I hope that one day photography might play an even bigger role in my life.

    I wish you, StoneNYC, that you fulfil your dream soon, and that you never lose your inspiration and perseverance.
     
  23. Louis Nargi

    Louis Nargi Member

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    Thank You A.A. has inspired me my whole photographic life.
     
  24. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    Ansel Adams inspired many. He is rebel and a trend setter during his time. He rejected Pictorialism which was the photographic style at the time. He sets an example of pushing the art and craft of photography forward by not being reactionary to new styles and photographic technologies. I think if Ansel got his hands on Photoshop, he'd be like a kid in a candy store.

    Here's his quote..

    "I eagerly await new concepts and processes. I believe that the electronic image will be the next major advance. Such systems will have their own inherent and inescapable structural characteristics, and the artist and functional practitioner will again strive to comprehend and control them."

    For the record, I shoot film more than digital.
     
  25. Loulou

    Loulou Member

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    I highly recommend it, it is a wonderful exhibition.

     
  26. StoneNYC

    StoneNYC Subscriber

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    I would like to respond more thoroughly but I'm at work and on my phone. But I do feel I owe and apology for my harsh judgement. I was assuming you were an American (typical American small mindedneeds). And as you stated Americans often have a different view on what wealth and poor mean.

    I congratulate you on your success, and thank you for responding with dignity and kindness, you show us all how to strive to be better.

    I suppose you are right, it is nice to not be entrapped by certain circumstances that are often only problems of the rich and to be able to constantly focus and fulfill your life. It's hard to imagine for me, I agree I hope that I can become more wealthy than I am now, I have never been as poor as you, so perhaps I should appreciate my "poor wealth" as I have been able to afford nice equipment and time to shoot and process and hopefully soon I will be selling more of my work.

    Time will tell.

    Thanks.


    ~Stone

    Mamiya: 7 II, RZ67 Pro II / Canon: 1V, AE-1, 5DmkII / Kodak: No 1 Pocket Autographic, No 1A Pocket Autographic | Sent w/ iPhone using Tapatalk