In the context you describe, I would have to agree.
Originally Posted by kjsphoto
Had Adams not encountered Paul Strand when he did, I wonder if his work would have been as widely accepted as it was. So what we know factually is that Adams is credited with formulating a system that actually was the outgrowth of the methods and procedures of several very good photographers.
This points out why I think that Adams is the icon that many accept him to be. He had the ability to promote himself and hence his work very well. Call it salesmanship or call it self promotion. The point is that without it his images would probably have remained relatively obscure.
From my perspective, and considering the standpoint of composition and the representation of form, his work is not as great as many other very good photographers. Take away the aspect of nature and the great landscape, and how effective was he at seeing?
I marveled at his work at one time. That time has passed for me.
Adams intersection with Strand is an interesting one, and helped to inspire (along with Lange) some of the best of his lesser known work, however, did Strand help "make" Ansel in the way that Stieglitz helped "make" Weston, despite his departure from pictorialism?
Originally Posted by Donald Miller
Last edited by JBrunner; 10-29-2006 at 10:21 PM. Click to view previous post history.
I think what makes Adams' work so special is its inherent timelessness. Viewing his photographs, I have the sense that they will be just as stunning in the future; there is no short-sighted trendiness or kitsch to date them. His work is a triumph of substance over fleeting style.
Of course, Adams was probably the most technically adept photographer of his generation (or perhaps any generation!) so he knew very well how to get what he wanted. And he used those abilities to represent his subjects with front-to-back clarity and fidelity. He was a powerful voice of conservative representation during rather pictorialist times. And I think that it is for this reason that his work has such enduring timelessness.
I really don't have the answer to your question. I think that in both cases beneficial influence was obtained. Stieglitz was certainly influential to Adams too.
Originally Posted by JBrunner
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Maybe you need a few non-photographic reasons when all else fails:
- He had a distinctive first name
- He had a memorable, alliterative full name
- His name/books always came first on the alphabetical lists
- He was hard-working and morally sound - qualities Americans like
- He had the good sense to have only one son to avoid jealousy and in-fighting over his legacy
- He sported an attractive, manly beard for most of his life
I think the reason one name comes up over others is complex and often not related to the craft. One of Australia's best known photographers (Max Dupain) became that way shortly before his death on the back of one image called the Sunbaker. In one single image he empitomised how Australian's liked to see themselves. Relaxed, suntanned, healthy, living by the beach, carefree, earthy, sand-covered people. (And it was basically just a holiday snap of a friend.)
Perhaps it's the same with Adams? The American ideal of the courageous adventurer, hiking, camping, taking in the wilderness and all the possibilities and dreams offered by the American frontier? It is the heroic wilderness images which most people recognise. Sure beats peppers and full-figured nudes in the doorway! How can "joe-anne average" relate to that?!
Thinking on this a bit more maybe it's because over many years when non-photographers have asked photographers to show them a "good photo" they have more often than not chosen an Ansel Adams? Why? Because he is appreciated and recognised by photographers for all the reasons stated above and the work is relatively "safe". Rather than grab say a Man Ray or Atget and say, see, great photo, Adams work finds a home in the hearts and heads of most "regular" people. This feeds into the demand and supply of posters, prints, books calendars etc. The more this pattern is repeated the more universal the household name or "brand" becomes?
I really like AA's photographs, even if most of my exposure to them has been through posters and books.
In response to the question raised, I think it would be a mistake to discount his influence on politics, and in particular the politics that resulted in enhancing the US National Parks system.
Like so many other special photographers (e.g. FSA photographers), his work had an effect outside the realm of Art and Photography.
people relate to landscape more than they relate to anything else. they want to feel connected to the world around them and the "higher power". the ansel adams photographs that are "iconic" show pristine landscapes in all their glory, idealized. in addition to having a body of work that everyone could relate to, his photography became synonymous with the environmental movement + sierra club, and everything that is "good" about america.
The reason that AA is well known to the general public isn't because of he photography, but because of his decades long conservation work. His public fighting with James Watt brought him to the attention of the ecology movement, just about the time that print prices were going from $25 to $25,000. Basically, his new manager successfully marketed what he'd already been doing for years.
For photographers, his status came because he set the highest standards for craftmanship, and shared his techniques and philosophy with everyone.
Personally, I think he was a great landscape artist, but that view is not universally shared.