Notes from MFA: Ansel Adams 1902-1984
Adams pursued photography from the 1920s to the 1970s.
“No matter how sophisticated you are, a large granite mountain cannot be denied. It speaks to the very core of your being.” AA
“No matter how sophisticated you are, a blonde with cute legs cannot be denied. She speaks to the very core of your being.” PT
AA began his career by making soft focus photos, “pictorialism”. In 1927 he made his first photos of Yosemite. Naturally reflective and inner directed, he was determined to develop a personal credo that would be the lodestone to direct his chosen career in photography. He read works of Emerson, Whitman, and Edward Carpenter to guide his spiritual awakening as he walked into the remote and massive regions in the pristine West.
In 1927, he marched himself up Half Dome’s 13.600 feet with 30 pounds of camera equipment strapped to his broad shoulders with the aim of photographing not what it looked like in reality but “how it felt.” That must have represented a “born again” moment for Adams as a photographer, as he was baptized not in the waters of the kingdom but in its highlands, bluffs and buttes from which he peered at eternity.
Early in his career, he began the f64 club with fellow photographers with goal of composing images with great detail and wide range of tones black to white.
He first began using a red filter to enhance imaging of textures and deepen the color of the skies.
A trained pianist as a young man, he called the negative the “score” and the print the “performance”. He referred to his work as “painting with light” and achieved this by using darkroom techniques of “dodging and burning”. Adams refined his intuition over time by his technique of “visualizations”, a pictorial sense of the image he intended to create after squeezing the camera’s shutter. His work, whether of majestic peaks and cloud formations or blades of grass growing in front of charred tree trunks, lifts a veil for the viewer. These subjects, grand and petite, are within out sight every day. If we take a moment, we too can see eternity etched in a grain of sand, or a formation of lenticular clouds.
One of Adam’s favorite quotes: Chance favors the prepared mind.”
I'm sure that applies to pilots as well.
Adams was fascinated by the cloud formations that loomed over the mountains.
Paul Strand, a fellow photographer, said, “There is a certain valid moment for every cloud." I wonder if the same applies to us humans.
Some personal favorites of the show:
Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite, 1944
Winter Sunrise Sierra Nevada from Lone Pines, CA 1944
Grass and Reflections, Lyell Fork of Merced River, Yosemite, 1944
Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 11/1/1941
MFA members may go to the Morse Room and ask to see Ansel Adams prints individually, without the glass covering them. There is said to be an astonishing amount of texture and color gradation visible without the glass being over the print.