Ansel Adams – He Could Have Been So Good…

I’m not sure if anyone else will find this as funny as I do, but I recently read a comment by someone (and it was serious, I promise) and I need to share it.

They said “I recently discovered the work of Ansel Adams for the first time. It was fantastic, especially when you consider he did not even have digital to work with!”.

Perhaps it’s just me (or photographers of “a certain age” like me) but I think that is just brilliant!

The name of the commenter has been withheld for reasons of not wanting to ridicule anyone.

8 Replies to “Ansel Adams – He Could Have Been So Good…”

  1. That is someone who “thinks” and “wishes” they were a “photographer”.
    As the saying goes ” If you buy a camera, you’re a photographer. If you buy a piano, well… You just bought a piano”
    Village idiots…

  2. Ansel Adams is a fine example of a craftsman, a person who has mastery over his tools and can direct them to produce what he can envision. Digital photography has replaced the toolkit he used but not the passion, vision and discipline needed to become a craftsman.

  3. Mike, I’m not sure digital has replaced his tools, we have just adapted them (or ourselves) to suit. What digital has given us is the ability to judge the result of releasing the shutter and make some changes and take more pictures if we need to. When Ansel was commiting an image to 10×8″ film he didn’t have the luxury of being lazy!

  4. Interestingly, I suspect Ansel Adams would have been less of a photographer if he started out in the digital age. His work to devise the ‘Zone Method’ helped him understand light in a way he most likely would have missed if the camera had done it all for him.

  5. I recently discovered the work of this band called ‘The Beatles’. It was excellent, especially when you consider that they didn’t have Pro-Tools or Auto-Tune!

    Ah… Kids…

  6. I think you’re mis-interpreting the original comment, which in turn makes *you* all look like id**ts !

    How I interpret the comment is as follows;

    “I recently discovered the work of Ansel Adams for the first time. It was fantastic, especially when you consider he was working with film (and back then there was no digital nor internet, so everything was that much slower and harder to learn and master !) ”.

    For the record, while I’m incredibly indebted to Ansel Adams and the monumental contribution he made to Photography (in particular his Zone system, which helped my understanding of exposure), I personally find his work to be more of that of a top class, first rate Printer than of a master photographer.

    Truly great Photography (and there are plenty of great photographers), for me, is from the likes of Henri Cartier-Bresson. Adams’ work is more a case of brilliant capture of exposure and phenomenal darkroom technique.

    There, now call me the idiot !!

  7. Jez – you’re the idiot! Just kidding. I think you are right and the original comment could be interpreted just as you suggest. However, knowing the person who made the comment makes me confident that my interpretation was correct in this case.

    Whilst I agree with you that Adams’ reputation as a photographer was boosted by his skill as a printer, we should not forget that he went to a lot of effort to be in the right place with his camera, showed a talent for composure and was an excellent judge of when to release the shutter. I accept that with Adams, the “decisive moment” was more about what time of day (and even what time of year!) but you can’t fix bad composure or bad lighting in a darkroom.

    As someone who also was more about darkroom skills than image capture skills, I really appreciate what Adams achieved and what he taught the rest of us.

    If we judge great photographers by their skills with a camera, then I agree with you; Adams does not compete with Cartier-Bresson. However, if we judge them by the photographs they presented to us, then I don’t think you can really take much away from Adams. Getting off the fence for a minute, I actually would have to say I go with you if we are talking about truly great photographers – Cartier-Bresson had something you can’t learn, whereas Adams’ abilities could be picked up with a little effort.

    Okay, you win. Thank you for an intelligent alternative perspective.

  8. I swear that I remember hearing one of my professors say that Ansel Adams was way ahead of his time and predicted that the digital medium was the next step for photography–but I could be wrong.

    I think that film would still be his canvas, but he wouldn’t have anything against ‘new’ mediums.

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