Ansel Adams

Fine Arts Appreciation

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17 May 2012

Ansel Adams

When the matter is the landscape in the art of photography, then the first thing that comes to the memory is the name of the famous American photographer Ansel Adams. His black and white pictures have become classics of landscape photography, and they have not lost their relevance and a special artistic vision. Being least admirer of color photography, his entire life Ansel Adams has been creating stunning black and white images, which are distinguished by expressive and emotional aspects. Although in his record there is listed a great deal of stunning photos of people, architecture, and various objects, namely landscape photography made him really famous. As well, he noted that the most difficult genre of photo art, requiring remarkable skills and patience from a photographer, is the landscape.

In order to capture the grandeur of nature, or express an artistic vision in the landscape, the photographer has to take into account many tiny details: the weather, the clouds in the air, light, pale color, and exposure (Hammond, 2002). Thus the artistic work developed by the artist can be described as delicate as he incorporates the surroundings of the picture to develop stunning images which are a reflection of his passion for art and more so of the natural surroundings and societal issues plaguing the world. The artwork provided by the artist is extraordinary as it enables the audience to experience photography in a new light or perspective despite claims of corruption due to lack of color. The “Tetons and the Snake River” is one of the photos on which Adams had worked more than 10 hours to transmit all the beauty of the nature (Read, 1993).

His other works included the photograph of the California Street Firehouse. The photograph is a depiction of grandiose architecture, which dominated the American society in the historic times when people arrived from Europe and settled in America. He tires to emphasize the need to emulate such architecture in society and in our lives to become firm and sustain our morals and culture as the house that has stood for many years unshaken and remains beautiful in the camera lens. The photo “Tetons and the Snake River” is considered a part of the “pure photography by Adams. The photograph is exemplary as it is an illustration of might of nature. Might is illustrated by the presence of numerous mountain peaks which are almost touching the skies above them. In addition, the river winds through the plains imitating a huge snake to enforce the majesty of nature and the surroundings of the environment.

Declaring the photography as “a vivid poetry of reality”, Adams avoided artificial manipulations, claiming they were simply derivative of other art forms. Instead of new modern portable cameras, Adams and other photographers of nature clung to their bulky, outmoded large-format cameras, with the help of which they ultimately turned the photography into art. Moreover, they formed in the Americans new thoughts about the preservation of their national nature. “Tetons and the Snake River” made in 1942 was the photograph that saved the planet (Hammond, 2002). The artwork provided by the artist remains as a reminder of the journey that photography has taken to arrive at what is considered as modern photography.

For shooting landscapes in addition to high technical expertise, which allows a greater expressiveness of the image, according to Adams, the photographer must learn to translate the vivid colors in various shades of gray, to see objects as a combination of certain colors. Nevertheless, the main thing is that the resulting image was not just a fixation of reality, but brought with it the attitude and artistic vision of the photographer. In such well-known Ansel Adams’ works as “View of the Sierra Nevada from Lone Pine”, “Autumn Moon” and “Tetons and the Snake River”, there is concluded the photographer’s ability to “see and find” objects for the shooting (Szarkowski, 1976). “View of the Sierra Nevada from Lone Pine” is an illustration of the love that Adam had for nature and the environmental surroundings. He portrays his images in the light of how he sees them, black and white without the use of color. In addition, his expression was that color was a corruption of art. He seemed to focus on the use of zoning to increase contrast and exposure of the final work of art.

The View of the Sierra Nevada from the Lone Pine is a clear illustration of exposure of the work of art because he enables the photography enthusiasts to view perfectly what he captures on camera. On the other hand, The Tetons and the Snake River have used high levels of contrast to enable a clarified view of the top of the mountains and the snaking river. The dark image is used to depict the violence of Mother Nature and the same time the calmness. The clouds above the mountain are a depiction of the wrath that weather can bestow on the world whereas the calmness of the river is used to illustrate might and depth of the rivers. Hence, the forces of nature are utterly uncontrollable. When shooting landscapes he used the “zone system”, which was aimed to ensure that the resulting image displayed the full range of tones of the subject captured. The range of tones, that is, the ratio of brightness is determined by the photographer during the exposure and obtaining a negative. In order to get lower contrast of the picture as in the case of the View of the Sierra Nevada from Lone Pine” there is a need for a film with a reduced range of tones (Hammond, 2002).

Changes to reproduce the brightness of the subject captured on camera are provided by decreasing or increasing exposure time of the negative, as well as changing the time of its emerging (Hammond, 2002). Therefore, “the zone theory” of Ansel Adams is to enhance the capability of the photographer to transmit his artistic intentions. This is clearly used in the Autumn Moon whereby he provides the various zones within the painting to capture the objects, with specific reference to the moon towering the mountain ranges. This particular artwork provides the art enthusiasts or audience with a chance of imagination into the unknown. The moon can be a depiction of solitude or the need to reach greater heights and artistic brightness by the artist because the moon is the only bright element in the works surrounded by towering mountain peaks and dark plains.

Ansel Adams was not only photographer, but also a nature defender, conservationist and ecologist. His work was as well directed to show the greatest patrimony of the humanity which is in the form of nature. Adams said that it was terrible to have to fight his own government to save the environment. Adams’ passion for nature was not limited to landscapes, which he formed via the lens. In 1936, he accompanied his photos to Washington to lobby for the interests of the conservation of “Kings Canyon” area in California. Of course, the trip was successful because the canyon was declared a national park in 1940 (Read, 1993).

For Ansel Adams there were whole worlds of experience beyond the world of aggressive man and history and outside of science. Mood and features of nature and the revelations of great art are always equally difficult to define, and people could seize them only in the depths of the perceptive spirit. Adams hoped that his photos would contribute to the process of self-expression and searching of own “I” by other beginning photographers. Photography by Ansel Adams stimulates exploration and definition of beauty, creativity, excitement and passion in the wonderful world around (Read, 1993). Ansel Adams had always sought to develop aesthetic perception among the fans of photography and care about the world through the creation of original pictures. Many people admire his work. Perhaps it comes from the fact that the pictures convey the extraordinary mind and penetrate into the heart.

Highest standards of artisanship, of course, strikingly underscore Ansel Adams throughout his career. However, he did not put the technique of photography at the forefront. He never caught up in new products and new technological solutions, even though he worked for a long time as consultant in the “Polaroid” company (Hammond, 2002). On the contrary, he believed that certain restrictions on the use of photographic techniques could extend the skills of the photographer and develop his artistic abilities. As Ansel Adams kept repeating, the quality and complexity of the equipment cannot be equal with the artistic eye the photographer, his ability to express his own attitude to photography. It is this principle he had followed throughout his life (Hammond, 2002).

In conclusion, the art provided by Ansel Adam could be described s revolutionary in the world of art because it transforms into quiet and extraordinary picture after the absence of color to enable art lovers to experience art forms in their raw forms despite claims of corruption due to the absence of color. The art provided is unique to the artist because he captures images from an extraordinary perspective that is an illustration of creativity, which is vital for artists seeking individual identities. Thus, his works was motivated by the love for nature and a need for preservation as hew depict nature in its raw and uncorrupted form.

(718 words)

Works cited

Hammond, Anne. Ansel Adams: Divine performance. Yale University Press, 2002.

Read, Michael. Ansel Adams, new light: Essays on his legacy and legend. San Francisco: The Friends of Photography, 1993.

Szarkowski, John. Looking at Photographs: 100 Pictures from the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art. New York: N.Y. Graphic Society, 1976.