Why I admire Ansel Adams

Why I admire Ansel Adams

  1. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

    Messages:
    7,114
    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2005
    Location:
    In a darkroo
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Christopher Walrath submitted a new resource:

    Why I admire Ansel Adams - Why I admire Ansel Adams

    Read more about this resource...
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 6, 2016
  2. fhovie

    fhovie Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,247
    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2003
    Location:
    Port Hueneme
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    well said - you don't have to imitate his style or his eye to imitate his tenacity and his dedication to the art - a good hero for any photo artist
     
  3. Curt

    Curt Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,561
    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Location:
    Pacific Nort
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    And it was in his seeing Paul Strands negatives, not prints but just the negatives, that he made the decision to pursue photography full time. The Southwest and Ansel Adams are inseparable. The further you search and research the better it gets. I have seen a great many of his photographs in galleries over the last 35 or so years and I am always in awe of the presence his photographs have. If a person were to study the work and lives of Paul Strand, Edward Weston and Ansel Adams they would have a Masters Degree in photographic living and understanding.
     
  4. mmcclellan

    mmcclellan Subscriber

    Messages:
    462
    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2005
    Location:
    Ann Arbor, M
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    True greatness is never outdated, although the appreciation of greatness by a culture waxes and wanes with the times. It is a good measure of how the culture is doing spiritually and morally as to whether it continues to appreciate true greatness.

    Ansel's work will continue to stand the test of time for many generations to come, just as the 17th century Dutch Masters are to this day, along with many other greats of art. There are few truly great photographic artists in our short history, but Adams is undoubtedly one of them and his work will continue to stand the test of time.
     
  5. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

    Messages:
    4,913
    Joined:
    May 17, 2006
    Location:
    Northern Aqu
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    He was a great photographer and (by most accounts) a nice person too. But there is a distinction between AA and some of his followers, just as there is a distinction between Christ and some Christians (the sort who burned witches, for example).

    Everyone can learn an immense amount from AA, but it is true that he was increasingly trapped in a single style of photography, largely to please his fans. Some of his early advertising work was superb -- a bar interior springs to mind -- and I've even seen a little of his reportage. Again, brilliant.

    Today, many of his followers are addicted to the same subject that made him famous -- faux wilderness -- and imagine that the Zone System is the origin of sensitometry rather than a restatement of its basic principles, which were well established long before AA. Distressingly many are also convinced that the Zone System is what made him great, and that if they can attain the same technical mastery, they'll be as good too. The truth is that he was simply a brilliant photographer, even before he invented the ZS, but the ZS is easier to discuss.

    In other words, if someone appears to put down AA, it's not necessarily the man that irritates them: it's some of his followers. The same applies to faux-wilderness pictures.

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  6. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

    Messages:
    2,364
    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2004
    Location:
    East Kent, U
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Not to detract from AA in any way, but one of my principal interests in photography is precisely flying by the seat of my pants, with the emphasis on flying - using the speed of photography to record fleeting incidents, emotions, expressions. I can only speak for myself, but I feel this has been the quality present in my best work.
     
  7. mtnbkr

    mtnbkr Member

    Messages:
    104
    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2005
    Location:
    Manassas, Vi
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I'll probably expose myself as a hack photographer, but I've always liked AA's work. I don't attempt to recreate his "style" or subject matter, but I do appreciate his results. I'm also a fan of Galen Rowell's work. AA for B&W and GR for color. GR gets criticism for his use of filters, but that's what I love about his work.

    Interesting tidbit about GR and my VERY tenuous connection to him... I was flipping through a coffee table book of his work a couple years ago and came across a picture he took in Mexico years prior. I'm looking at the photograph and it looks very familiar even though I can't recall ever seeing it before. Then it hit me. I took the book into the bedroom and compared the pic to the nearly identical one on the wall, taken on my honeymoon 3 years earlier. At the time I took the picture, I had never even heard of GR other than his column in Outdoor Photography. I certainly hadn't seen the picture before. I was merely grabbing "interesting" shots while on our honeymoon. The only difference between the tow pics was the lighting (bright sunny day in mine, slightly overcast in his) and composition due to different focal length lenses. Otherwise, the composition is the same, the subject is in the same position of the frame, etc. While I never try to recreate others' works, I was pleased I looked at the same scene as GR and came up with roughly the same photograph.

    Chris
     
  8. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

    Messages:
    7,114
    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2005
    Location:
    In a darkroo
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    You know, Chris, in one of the essays in 'Inner Game' GR stresses seeing and the mind's eye and that it takes a trained eye to recognize that an image one has taken is indeed different from another's. Most times, someone who lives in Jackson Hole might look at AA's Snake River Overlook and say 'Oh, yeah. I have that shot.' When it is in fact a completely different and, sometimes, substandard image of the same subject matter. The mind can associate a personal memory to an image that is similar in appearance and merge the two. A great tool for composition of familiar objects. GR would be proud of you.

    Hey, thanks for the great remarks everybody. Glad you enjoyed the article.

    Chris
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 14, 2007
  9. weststarflyers

    weststarflyers Member

    Messages:
    28
    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2007
    Location:
    Denver, Colo
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Thank you Chris. I am fond of Adams and White.
    Reading his early 5 books back in the late sixties, I remember laughing hard because he expressed his ideas based on his own terrible mistakes. It is like writting to remind oneself what not to do. In some countries of South America we knew it as the "Adams System of Zone Control" (Control de Zonas por el Sistema Adams) and was a highly technical issue fairly translated; a compendium of his tests, proposed charts, chemistry, etc. While flying for the Aerial Photo Group of the Peruvian Air Force, later in the seventies, we use to practice with the 4X5 Speed Graphics (not used for aerials) in our free times trying our best to "mimic" his style with little success. Eventually we will come with something but nothing even close.
     
  10. Dinesh

    Dinesh Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,699
    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2005
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The Adams exhibit (of about 120 pieces) was here last winter. I have to admit that while the content wasn't my "cup of tea", the quality of the printing was absolutely incredible.
     
  11. PhotoBob

    PhotoBob Subscriber

    Messages:
    535
    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2006
    Location:
    Victoria, BC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I too have a respect for this photograher, i.e., Ansel Adams.
    I've some of his product and even recall a showing of his work at a big store in Japan many years ago. I went not once, but twice to the exhibition.
    Your essay ... well said.
     
  12. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

    Messages:
    4,090
    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2006
    Location:
    NYC or Copak
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Someone wrote that AA photographed "faux wilderness".

    I think that is a simplistic statement devoid of the shifting understandings of his time and the concept of "wilderness".

    AA's major "wilderness" shooting, just about all of it the Southwest US plus CA, took place from the 1940's into the 1980's. It was a time when the concepts of "wilderness", "conservation" and "environmentalism" were as often in conflict as they were in agreement.

    AA attempted to idealize what he firstly saw as "wilderness", but I think it is common understanding that he knew that the West had already reached a point where "wilderness" was more an ideal than a real. After all, in the 1950's, the man knew that Mono Lake was disappearing and that Lake Powell was filling Glenn Canyon. Yet he did not shoot Glenn - and I don't know - but doubt he shot Mono.

    Rather, his very idealization of El Capitan was perhaps an unintended statement that only in the National Parks could you hope to shoot an "idealized wilderness" - even though the very concept of National Park suggests a "reserve" or "museum piece".

    The conservationists of the 1950's were the forebearers of the environmentalists of the 1970's and later on. But they, born in an earlier age, still clung to the hope that there was a wilderness that could be preserved because of its "beauty". Environmentalists know that whatever remnants of "wilderness" remain MUST be preserved because of the ecological "necessity" to do so.

    In some ways AA was both ahead of and behind his times. He thought he could instill a love of nature by shooting "landscape spectacles" that would inspire people to preserve (conserve) the "wilderness". But, in many ways, the "wilderness" he sought to preserve through his art was by then "faux" in that it had been "preserved" - although he, himself, would not (could not) admit that was the case.

    The loss of "true wilderness" is our collective loss. And we are stupid if we criticize his attempts as some kind of "faux" exercise - when all we do is blather on the web and accomplish much less to impact the real world than what AA has.
     
  13. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

    Messages:
    15,204
    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2003
    Location:
    Minnesota
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Thank you for your fantastic article. I enjoyed reading it, and we all have to find our inspiration somewhere.
    I admire Adams' work greatly, I've had the privilege of seeing many of his prints in museums and I'm always taken aback by the quality. I don't get emotional about it, however. Other photographers have that type of influence on me. Minor White is one of them. Andre Kertesz is another.

    - Thomas
     
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. Mark Layne

    Mark Layne Member

    Messages:
    920
    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2003
    Location:
    Nova Scotia
    The fact that I like Adam's work, and detest street photography, probably classifies me as an art illiterate.
    We should remember that Adams influenced the preservation of areas other than Yosemite, and that he shared his knowledge willingly with almost anyone who showed interest.
    Mark
     
  16. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

    Messages:
    7,114
    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2005
    Location:
    In a darkroo
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Yes, Ansel helped to preserve a lot of land, King's Canyon et al. I appreaciate the comments and I am glad you all liked the article. Thank you.

    Chris
     
  17. CPorter

    CPorter Member

    Messages:
    1,662
    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2004
    Location:
    West KY
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    Chris,

    I think this is a well thought out piece and I enjoyed reading it. It reflects many things that I have always felt , but never really was able to put into words. Since my short time here on APUG, I have seen many AA bashers who seem to be that way for reasons that you precisely point out early in your article. My own respect for AA lies principally in that, through learning the ZS and the art of visualizing the desired end result, I have never seen or thought about my subject more clearly, and thus my entire photographic experience is all the better because of it-----the whole process has become amazingly "fluid" and free.

    His legacy, at least for me, is in what he has taught me and not really what he photographed. In addition I would say that his enthusiasm is so pervasive in his writings that it is infectious to me and what I try to do today, and I have not really experienced that with anyone else's work--although I admire others' contributions too. John Sexton was interviewed one time and was asked a question something about what AA's legacy was to him. It was, if I remember, his unfailing enthusiasm for what he did. He remarked that even at the age of about 80, Adams one day emerged from the darkroom with such excitement (child like) about finally getting the print that he had visualized when he made the negative in, I believe, sometime in the 30's.

    Well, again, it is a good article.

    ~Chuck
     
  18. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

    Messages:
    7,114
    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2005
    Location:
    In a darkroo
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Thank you Chuck. I'm glad you liked it.
     
  19. CPorter

    CPorter Member

    Messages:
    1,662
    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2004
    Location:
    West KY
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    Your welcome, and if Mr. Sexton reads this I hope I have remembered the interview with acceptable accuracy.
     
  20. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

    Messages:
    7,114
    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2005
    Location:
    In a darkroo
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    It's in Adams' autobiography and it (huh-hemm) might have been the forties, but who's counting. CLose enough for horseshoes, hand grenades and nuclear war.
     
  21. Jadedoto

    Jadedoto Member

    Messages:
    147
    Joined:
    May 31, 2006
    Location:
    Lexington KY
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    This is why I am so against people using digital photography as their first and primary means. When one of my friends picked up photography with her DigiRebel, I did everything I could to get to her to understand what she's doing... Even offering her all my supplies in the darkroom and I'd teach her how to use it.

    Sadly, she never took me up on the offer. When we go together to shoot at the racetrack, she frets over why her camera decides to make the track white (it's a new polytrack). I developed my slides that night and got perfect images.

    When she frets about her camera not making the right decisions, I advise her on manually exposing a stop or two less. When she responds she's too lazy, I lay my face in my hands and weep.
     
  22. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

    Messages:
    7,114
    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2005
    Location:
    In a darkroo
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I know the feeling, Jade. I'm working on my wife. Hey, at least she didn't root for Michigan last weekend. Thanks.
     
  23. 23mjm

    23mjm Member

    Messages:
    450
    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2005
    Location:
    Rocklin, Cal
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    AA is the God of Photography!!! In todays fast food-close is good enuff-video game instant gratification society some people will never grasp the concept that good results take work and knowledge.
     
  24. Ian Leake

    Ian Leake Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,423
    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2005
    Location:
    Switzerland
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    I admire AA because he had something to say, and he said it through wonderful photographs.
     
  25. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    9,440
    Joined:
    May 24, 2005
    Location:
    Washington DC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Ansel was a highly talented photographer and a great educator. He is not a god. Calling him a god is to freeze photography in that mid-century modernist moment, a bit like deifying JMW Turner and declaring all landscape painting since is merely derivative.
     
  26. coohoolan

    coohoolan Member

    Messages:
    1
    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2007
    Location:
    chicago subu
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    admirable indeed

    As an amatuer, AA's 3 volume photography series has taught me virtually everything that I understand about the subject. What I appreciate the most is his fluency in the science of photgraphy and how that correlates to realizing the initial visualization in the final print. Buried somewhere in the first volume he wrote, “I believe there is nothing more disturbing than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept” - I love that.