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  1. #51
    Bob F.'s Avatar
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    Indeed. Talk about trying to herd cats!....

    It's classic Adams. The kind of thing I fell in love with years ago. I've seen this in London in the 100 Year anniversary show, and even in the poor lighting of the Hayward Gallery its impact came across. I don't think you need to read too deeply, or look for great subtlety: I see it as a celebration of nature, light, and texture - no more complicated than that.

    Cheers, Bob

  2. #52

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    Quote Originally Posted by tim atherton
    this apparent confusion between the thing photographed and the photograph itself often seems to arise in these discussions. The two are very different.

    (One is a real "thing" - whatever - rock, mountain, pepper, garbage can, nude etc etc. The other is a real photograph - sounds simple, but people seem to tie themselves in all sorts of knots confusing and conflating the two)

    Why does the concept of Ansels work have to be complicated, almost magical? From what I read he was not a 'magical' kind of man, but quite straight forward and unpretentious who did not talk in the tongue of an artiste (french accent)

    There is no confusion and the concept is very simple, but what you say above almost suggests that because the two are so different, the is little point in even considering the idea that a photograph can resemble the original scene. I personally think this is very silly. Of course the image is a two dimensional represention of a scene and not actually made of boulders and soil. But it IS related....not matter how much it deviates. The fact that a human created representation and the real scene are different entities does not stop us lumping painters into various styles, such as 'impressionist etc' does it? There are radical differences in painting styles, techniques etc and it does make on heck of a difference to the appearance as an image and how well is 'resembles' the original scene in literal if not emotional terms.

    I think people are making things far too complicated in the case of this image. Sure, the image might be greater than the sum of its whole...but is this not because Ansels composition and spatial relationships, choice of lighting, control of lighting and values etc bind the image together in such a way? This still does not explain how the image represents a radical departure in its depiction, even 'improvement' of the original scene. Ansel was a master of binding relationships and this is what he has done here IMO.

    What Ansel did in the case of this image is sublime and all about supreme balance and control of the 'raw materials' he had about him. From what I have read of Ansel in how own words, he rarely makes claims that his images were radical departures. Yes, he 'visualised' and 'pre-visualised' but these are grandiose terms ( and as prentious as he got) for 'looked at the scene and decided what he wanted the print to look like before he took the shot and made it so'. Nothing more. Water bath here, dodging and burning here....just the right amount of toning...Voila! A print that if we tried to (and did) do all the same things we would fail to come anywhere close to his efforts. This is why so many people chase his tripod holes and produce pleasant, instantly recognisable images...but rarely come even close to the splendour of his. Most of their efforts actually resemble those of adams and are immediately recognisable as imitations are they not? I myself have seen countless. If Ansels images were radical departures would 'immediate recognition' not be difficult. Heck, I have have seen TV documntaries (on various unrelated subjects) pan across Yosemite and have recognised for certain elements of Ansel Photographs, if not entire scenes! If I am able to make such recognitions from TV, from the imitations of those following in his footsteps half a century later...I am still not convinced his images were radical departures....but in many cases supremely sublte ones epitomising control and balance, not fantasy.

    He is a great photographer and his vision was part of that, but unified with his technical skill he was able to being about the 'fine print' which was a perfect balance of all his considerations. In comparison look at some of Roman loranc's darker efforts. I like Romans work in general but not some of his OTT, darker work. Some if this IS a considerabe departure from the reality (it makes no claim to resemble).

    I think the simplicity of Ansels work is what makes it so admirable. There is no 'trick', no use of long exposures and deep ND filters, special darkroom technique with this and that chemical and masking etc. His self-imposed 'brief' was usually so simple that most of us would find it too tight, restrictive, even choking.

    A lot of what he did took enormous perserverance and 'getting out there' to find the right raw materials, both physical arrangements and critically, light and then fulfilling the final print. What nails it for me is that you could have been standing right next to him and still not come close in your efforts. They would strongly remeble one another but be POLES apart.

    Tom

  3. #53

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    I love Adam's work. To me it speaks of a respect for nature, and I'm grateful that there are grand places, and grand photographs of them. The earlier references to Adam's being a late romantic are spot on.The fact that they're idealizations doesn't undermine their profundity. It's a way of bringing the universal out of the particular. (All perception is inherently a picking and choosing, at least it is if it has any definite content. Any picture will emphasize some qualities at the expense of others.)

    Consider that the early Greeks were the first to be able to produce realistic sculpture of the human form. They rather quickly gave up realism for the pleasing distortions of idealization. If we take 'reality' to be what a person would see if they were standing by the tripod, the idealization of the photograph is an expression of a yearning for better things. That's not a bad thing.

    Just a suggestion, off the fly characterizations of appearance and reality really don't accomplish much, especially when they're dismissive. As a practicing epistemologist, I can assure you that these are very tricky waters with no clear winner in sight. Modern forms of idealism and realism have very bright and educated proponents.

    One more philosophical note: the claim that things have essences is highly problematic, as can be scene if you try and specify a thing's essence precisely and uniquely. If you can accomplish this in a persuasive fashion, you could get tenure at any of the elite universities. You'd also become the most famous philosopher since Kant.

  4. #54
    bjorke's Avatar
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    An interesting question is whether Ansel considered his zone and darkroom work to be an expression of will -- of his will OVER the existing view. I am unhappy about the idea, but I think that he probably did, that this was his method of asserting his persoanlity's dominance over nature (very much in the American mold there, coming as he did in the tail end of the great westward expansion). One might argue that he set the visual tone for the many SUV ads to follow, and that notion bothers me even more. Not that he was trying to create a visual language for people hell-bent on the domination and destruction of the landscape Adams held dear -- but that just such a thing has been one unforseen consequence (sentimentality can sell anything, as we have seen). I can almost see the Dodge RAM pushing over those rocks right now.

    "What Would Zeus Do?"
    KBPhotoRantPhotoPermitAPUG flickr Robot

  5. #55
    David H. Bebbington's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by df cardwell
    Folks, I despair about this discussion surviving.

    The conversation about the pictures is getting better.

    The judgementalism about other folks comments is getting worse.

    What's the deal ?

    .
    One minor aspect of the deal, df (or may I call you "d"?), is that I invited you to substantiate a rather snotty put-down (which we could really do without on this forum) and got no answer. You may feel that magisterial sweeping statements without explanation make you sound like an expert - I don't!

  6. #56
    df cardwell's Avatar
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    David

    Thanks for the note.

    I really hadn't meant my reply to be snotty, and I apologize.

    My silence was due to how angered I had been by your response.
    I thought I'd better keep my mouth shut.

    I still haven't figured out how to prove a negative,
    nor how to compress hundreds of pages of Westonia
    to a properly referenced post.

    You stumped me David. Again, I apologize.

    AS FOR the business of Weston, Adams, and what might have been said, or not, and why: there are wealthy primary sources that describe the Weston - Adams relationship. Weston, Adams, the Newhalls, Alinders, and all. THEY are they experts, ask them.

    Adams and Weston were best friends and creative companions. They just liked and respected each other, and trusted each other. To get a feel of this, pore over the Adams "Autobiography" and "Letters". They saw their work as a great departure from the sentimental glorification of nature as generally practised at the time. ( Adams was strongly influenced by O' Sullivan: he had printed O'Sullivans negatives ! ).

    There are many times Weston was critical of OTHER photographers for doing to 'nature' what we accuse Adams of doing: being grandiose, idealistic, 'arty-farty', and so on. His targets were usually the pictorialists whose Victorian sentimentality Weston couldn't tolerate. The camera - clubbers who go to the edge of the woods and idealize the purity of nature, freed from Mankind.

    Again, you have to read a lot to get the feel of it. But Weston was consistent, and he didn't pick on his friends.

    There WAS a guy who did place Adams in the "Ain't nature-grand school", and that was Mortensen. I think he might have even used your phrase, and not in a friendly way. Again, many times. He peppered his magazine articles with veiled derision of Adams.

    Adams, and Weston, have become quite obscured during the Internet Era, as legendary stories circulate about them. I've always tried to discount the stories guys have told about them ( folks have always been willing to knock Adams down a peg, but that's just human nature ). I've never heard a thing again Ansel from anybody who knew him. But, human nature being human nature, it's hard to seperate gossip from fact, and I've tried to stick to what they each put down on paper. I'm grateful for the primary sources, and to all who have labored to make them accessible.

    .
    "One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid,
    and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision"

    -Bertrand Russell

  7. #57

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    [QUOTE=Peter De Smidt]As a practicing epistemologist, I can assure you...QUOTE]

    I guess I'm essentially a retired phenomenologist... although always with a side interest in the semiotics of photography's half/partial/incomplete language.

    Consider that the early Greeks were the first to be able to produce realistic sculpture of the human form. They rather quickly gave up realism for the pleasing distortions of idealization. If we take 'reality' to be what a person would see if they were standing by the tripod, the idealization of the photograph is an expression of a yearning for better things. That's not a bad thing.

    I'm occasionally tempted to side with Bazin and Kendall Watson and declare that photographs are entirely transparent and the photographic image is the object itself... but I can never quite bring myself to do it. Though the idea of the photograph as a true icon (essentially what has been expressed in some of these threads) is appealing

  8. #58
    David H. Bebbington's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by df cardwell
    David

    Thanks for the note.

    I really hadn't meant my reply to be snotty, and I apologize.

    My silence was due to how angered I had been by your response.
    I thought I'd better keep my mouth shut.

    I still haven't figured out how to prove a negative,
    nor how to compress hundreds of pages of Westonia
    to a properly referenced post.

    You stumped me David. Again, I apologize.

    .
    Thanks for your response. I was genuinely interested to find out who had made the "Ain't nature grand!" remark which in my (possibly faulty) memory I had ascribed to Weston speaking of Adams. Purely stylistically, my use of the word "apparently" in my original post was meant to indicate that I was not claiming to state a 100% certified hard fact. Like you, I face the difficulty that my numerous books on Weston are non-digital and not very exhaustively indexed, therefore hard to search. I personally have never found Adams over-sentimental but have found him over-dramatic - if this is true, he no doubt felt everything was in the good cause of catching the public's attention and winning their support for conservation and the National Parks.

    Best regards,

    David

  9. #59

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    Weston was so fond using the "Ain't Nature Grand" slur toward amateur photographers (who drove up to a scenic overlook, shot a picture and drove away), that in their book "California and the West," he and Charis abbreviated it to just "A.N.G." But in that venue, at least, he often said it to justify himself for not shooting certain subjects. I'm not aware that he ever applied it to any other serious photographers' work, and certainly never to AA (though what he privately may have thought is quite open to conjecture).
    I have always though of this image as one of the three greatest images of a great landscape photographer.
    It is interesting to note that the proportions of this photograph are not quite 8x10, so there was, indeed, a little cropping of the horizonal image. Wonder what was there. A privy? A hot-dog stand? Perhaps a sign saying "no parking?"

  10. #60
    blansky's Avatar
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    Personally, while I find these discussions on everybody’s photographic heroes or bums interesting, I find them reminiscent of professional athletics. While I myself am an uneducated lout, and didn’t attend art school, and have no art history I come to these discussion with a sort of Zen Mind Beginner Mind approach. I essentially soak in the featured print and some I like and some I dismiss.

    The great pontificators of the site whose art history background are extensive and who seem to have the unauthorized biography of every person who ever picked up a brush or camera, somehow seem to be dragging around an incredible amount of baggage to every discussion. They can quote what the artist in question had for breakfast the morning that the work was created, and feel comfortable that they know the artists state of mind for his entire “period” that this particular style was dominant.

    It reminds me of fans of professional athletes, who instead of going and enjoying the athletic performances, fill their head with statistics and minutia, to try to make themselves and integral part of the game. When in reality they aren’t, and never will be. They are nothing more than an observer. Their opinions have no more merit than anyone else because they are forever just an observer. They can’t play at this level, never could and never will. By interjecting fanciful names and “periods” they are surprising like the old women that attend baseball games and know everybody’s batting average for the last 70 years. However I do enjoy their banter between pitches.

    Meanwhile the players past and present played on, quite indifferent to the musing of the fans in the stands and posers who think that talking baseball is the same as playing it.




    Michael
    I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I left this blank.



 

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