Sunday, March 13, 2011

Ansel Adams

Monolith, the Face of Half Dome by Ansel Adams

The final of three parts on the Booth Western Art Museum, I felt that Ansel Adams simply deserved his own post.  After all, it was he that truly inspired our long trek to Cartersville.  I don't know if I could have been convinced otherwise to make the long journey to see Western Art, although, in hind sight, the museum, itself, was worth the trip.

We viewed a total of 130 Ansel Adams photographs in this exhibit.  In a way, they were all familiar to me, having long been a fan of his work.  Adams once said that twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.  A good reminder, I thought, to be patient.  And a good reminder.... to edit!

And then there was the music.  A grand piano played classical music, setting the stage for nature's marvels. When Adams was twelve, he taught himself to play the piano and read music.  Soon, his intense pursuit of music became his substitute for formal schooling.  For the next dozen years, the piano was Adams's primary occupation and, by 1920, his intended profession.  
"Although he ultimately gave up music for photography, the piano brought substance, discipline and structure to his frustrating and erratic youth.  Moreover, the careful training and exacting craft required of a musician, profoundly informed his visual artistry, as well as his influential writings and teachings on photography." (
Hearing this, of course, was all the reenforcement I needed to continue mandatory piano lessons for my four children!

In 1927, Ansel Adams met Albert M. Bender, a San Francisco Insurance magnate and patron of arts and artists.  Bender immediately took Adams under his wing.  Bender's financial support and encouragement, changed Adams' life dramatically and gave him the wherewithal to transform from journeyman concert pianist  into the artist who "did for the national parks something comparable to what Homer's epics did for Odysseus." (Chicago Tribune:  Dec. 3, 1992).

Adams's technical mastery of photography was the stuff of legends.  He reveled in the theory and practice of the medium and served as a consultant with many photographic companies such as Polaroid and Hasselblad.  He developed the famous and highly complex "zone system" of controlling and relating exposure and development which enabled photographers to creatively visualize an image and produce a photograph that matched and expressed that visualization.

Ansel Adams manipulated the development process manually with the Zone System as well as the dancing of his hands between the developing paper and the light in a technique known as "dodging and burning."  I wonder what he would have thought of today's computerized post-editing processes like Photoshop.  I think he would have approved.

Ansel Adams posed with his famous photograph, 
Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico in an undated photo.
His work set auction records in New York. 
(Associated Press.)


There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.

A good photograph is knowing where to stand.

There are always two people in every picture:  the photographer and the viewer.

A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed.

Not everybody trusts paintings, but people believe photographs.

There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.

Photography is more than a medium for factual communication of ideas.  It is a creative art.

When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs.  When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.

You don't take a photograph, you make it.

Sometimes I do get to places just when God's ready to have somebody click the shutter.

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