Monday 2 August 2010

The Art of Photography

Permit me a slight, but relevant detour. I would like to talk very briefly of a gentleman named Ansel Adams. A photographer who shot on cumbersome large format cameras, turned developing images into an art form, and who achieved the greatest fame for his extraordinary pictures of Yosemite National Park.

I place this image of him here in almost certain breach of numerous copyrights:

In Yosemite Valley the Adams family (not that one, grow up) run a small gallery showcasing original photographs. I only just manage to keep the AmEx in my pocket. But one thing in that gallery completely blows me away. It stops me dead in my tracks, more than any image I have ever seen. From a photographer, a rare commodity - words:

To photograph truthfully and effectively is to see beneath the surfaces and record the qualities of nature and humanity which live or are latent in all things. Impression is not enough. Design, style, technique - these too are not enough. Art must reach further than impression or self-revelation. Art, said Alfred Stieglitz, is the affirmation of life. And life; or its eternal evidence, is everywhere.

Some photographers take reality as the sculptors take wood and stone and upon it impose the dominations of their own thought and spirit. Others come before reality more tenderly and a photograph to them is an instrument of love and revelation. A true photograph need not be explained, nor can be contained in words.

Expressions without doctrine, my photographs are presented here as ends in themselves, images of the endless moments of the world. I dedicate them to the memory of Alfred Stieglitz.

There's not a lot to add to that. Every time you raise the camera to your eye, you have the opportunity to scratch beneath the surface.


  1. one of the greats, of course. the quality of his photography drew me to him initially but as i learned more i started to find his images 'dull'. however, the images are just half the story. when you realise how he took his shots (and with what), and read his text books then - wow - you get a greater appreciation. check out the rest of the f64 group (esp weston) - and that steiglitz guy wasn't too shoddy either.

  2. Did you read that news story about a box of his originally slides (quiver) just sold for $50 at a garage sale. Their value sits at around $20 million I believe.

  3. $200 !! But they recon they weren't taken by Adams but by some dude called Earl. Either way, not bad for $50.

    Phil - Will have to read his textbooks, just seen the pics. Tried to go to the Weston gallery in Carmel yesterday but the bastards close on Mondays.