I can't really say that I have a favorite photo of his or anything, but his work is technically excellent and he's an important figure in the history of photography and darkroom techniques, so saying I "loathe" him would be pretty silly.
I do really like the work of Clyde Butcher, who is sort of like a younger ansel adams - by 40 years.
You have to keep in mind that he started working in the early 20th century. This is not digital photography where you can just snap away, look at your photos instantly, and delete the ones you do not want. This guy had a lot of skill and it took a long time and practice to gain that. Today, we don't really see the type of patience and professional technique. We have it so much easier, that there is no way to compare. Can you imagine traveling during the 1920's, 30's, 40's etc? Life was a lot slower and harder back then. I think the generation gap between us and his early life is too far apart to really understand.
I don't think anyone is disputing the fact that almost everything was harder back then, and that he was a pioneer in photography, but you can't expect people to like his work just because it was harder for him to produce them than it is for the typical landscape photographer today. If I had a choice, I'd hang on my wall the work that is more pleasing to my eyes, not the one that was harder to make.
I wish I could hand some of these guys a 1920s camera and a roll of film and say, "okay, show me how easy it is." Almost all of them would be utterly lost and I bet I wouldn't see more than one or two properly exposed photos on the roll.
Sure, and hand a photographer from 100 years ago a Phase One, and he wouldn't be able to get great results right away, that is, if they don't step away from it, calling it black magic. It's all about getting used to the technology at hand. We measure exposure differently than how they did 100 years ago.
Medium format cameras don't have to be used with tripods any more than 35mm cameras do. It's just smarter to use one than not to if you can (that applies to 35mm and digital cameras too) and the guys who shoot in medium format usually have more invested in getting good photos. Large format cameras usually require a tripod, but even then there are what are called press cameras that can be used without one. It is nearly always advisable to use a tripod if the situation allows for it, buit is even more so when it costs $10 per photo.
I don't much like his photos either. They are well done, technically perfect, but I think the subject matter is insipid and it doesn't appeal to me. However, those books he wrote are VERY good. I think that was his greatest contribution. Edward Weston pretty much invented the modern camera and meter and Ansel Adams pretty much wrote the books on how to use them.
No, it is DOCUMENTATION of building blocks that the technical aspects of photography are built on. There are many other ways to learn this without reading Ansel's books. Furthermore, understanding the technical side of photography the way Ansel did is not required to make great photos, it is required if you want to understand understand (and leverage) the scientific side of photography. I know of many very talented photographers who couldn't care less about this theorycrafting and are still able to make amazing images.
You're not looking deep enough and that is a naively solophistic way of looking at things. The people who designed things like Photoshop, autoexposure and so on DID read those books and they studied the results they got by using those formulae. Their ideas are based on what they learned. They did not start from scratch. The early pioneers absolutely are the basis on which all this is built. You don't have to be aware of it, but it is there whether you know it or not. It won't go away just because you (or anyone else) don't know about it.
Yes, the engineers at Adobe probably did read those books to be able to build what they did (although, it likely was not necessary for them either, just one path), but your statement wasn't that reading them can be very helpful, especially in terms of those progressing photography at the technical level. Your statement was that those who did not read those specific books have no hope of ever becoming anything beyond a mediocre photographer. It was a statement of absolution. It is like saying anyone who hasn't read "The Wealth of Nations" can't possibly hope to understand capitalism. Which is fundamentally wrong on two principles. The first being that if that were true then Ansel Adams himself would have lacked the ability to become a great photographer on the grounds that he could not have read the books that he had yet to right. And second that there are thousands, likely, hundreds of thousands of photographers who are creating fantastic images who have little or no interest in reading Ansel's teachings. (nor do they have to in order to continue their rise in skill level)
While reading such writings can only be of benefit to a photographer wishing to further their learning of the craft they do not stand as a the sole method of achieving competency in the act of creating an image with a camera. Everything that Ansel Adams wrote about in his books can be learned through alternative methods which at its core makes these books not required.
If given a finite amount of time to study I would argue in almost all cases the study of composition, color, and visual theory often surpasses the technical teaching that Adams brings to the table if the individual's goal is to maximize their artistic skill. And while Ansel does go into detail on concepts such as pre visualization and creative theory it is by all means not the absolute authority on this matter.
But the reality is simple. There are photographers who have not read his books who have achieved well beyond mediocrity, thus the absolution of your statement becomes primarily false.
And really this is, and always has been your absolution where you and I continuously disagree. You seem very stuck in the concept that there is only a single way to achieve anything and often make sweeping and specific statement such as this that I fear other artists may actually believe. Just like our previous discussions this is yet another example of you saying that: "In order to learn X you must do Y or you will always suck". Which simply is never true, there is always another way (or in almost all cases, several ways) to accomplish something and it is in this act of creative freedom where progress is made.
Okay, here's a compromise. You have to learn what he taught, from whatever source, in order to rise above mediocrity. You might not even achieve mediocrity if you don't. You can learn it on your own, which will take you years, or you can just read the damned books. They contain the basics you WILL need to know. If you don't know the basics, you are not really going to get far. In order to do anything advanced, you need a foundation to build on and this is the foundation.
Think of it this way: I once heard two art students talking to one another. One said that she wished that she could draw like another student. She said she couldn't draw worth beans, but she could paint. Well, no she can't. She might think so, but drawing is the basis on which everything else is built in painting. If you can't draw a picture of a house, you can't paint one either.
Even that i'd necessarily argue, but it is closer to the truth. A deep understanding of how a camera works really isn't any more necessary to shoot than it is to really know how a car works in order to drive. Case and point: Lara Jade, have what opinion you will of her but she has always cared VERY little about the technical side of photography, beyond understanding how to use exposure, shutterspeed, ISO, etc everything else she pretty much does by touch and feel. While her work is subjective and not everyone will like it, it is obvious she has risen well beyond mediocrity given that she is shooting fashion covers and major ad campaigns before she has reached 25.
Another cool example is Joel Grimes vs Frank Dorhof. While both are EXCELLENT photographers, and both have deep photographic knowledge they use conflicting methods. Frank is a very technical shooter and uses lighting ratios, grid systems, light meters, etc like they are gospel. On the flip side Joel refuses completely to use any sort of technical method of measuring his images (quote:"a technical instrument can never make a creative decision") and solely uses the LCD on the back of his camera to make decisions on how to tweak his setup. Both of photographers are at the top of the industry right now, but both have conflicting methods. Neither is wrong.
In order to become a great photographer you don't need to know why aperture works, just that it does. The same goes for shutterspeed, focal length, and pretty much the rest. It is entirely possible to become a fantastic photographer using just the manuel that comes with the camera and trial/error (like how Michelle Monique learned), Each artist needs to find their own method of learning which suits them.
Ansel's pretty good for his time, but as of late I think the coolest landscape work I've seen is from Peter Lik (although, from what I've read, he's quite a dick). But yeah, I appreciate his advances and techniques, I just think he needed to put a bit more soul into his work.
georgewjohnsonFeatured By OwnerNov 14, 2012Hobbyist Photographer
Ah yes Peter Lik, struck me as a bit of a prat when I saw him a video, ha ha! His images are a little too saturated for my liking but they are wonderfully expansive and as rcooper102 says, I can imagine they're quite something printed and mounted.
Ha, I also adore Peter's work, although, he does seem like quite the interest character. I was really excited to watch that show he was going to be starring in but then it never really came to fruition, but then again at the same time, his work isn't leaps and bounds better than many other landscape shooters that are at the top of the game today. Where Peter's work really stands out is that no one displays work quite as well as him. When you look at his images on the web they don't stand out as much but when you go to his gallery they are freaking amazing.
He does this thing where he prints them huge on super high quality metallic paper and then he mounts LED lights along the edge of the frame which makes it look like the whole image is it's own lightsource making the colors pop and really stand out. I imagine it is a VERY expensive process though.
I'll be honest when I say that I love Ansel's works. Perhaps I'm influenced by the fact that my father has one or two of his photographs on the wall (he went out and bought two, has the certificates of authenticity to hang them up and own them) and I always found the images beautiful. I wasn't drawn to him because tons of people gushed about him but because when I grew interested in photography, it was the nature scenes that I liked best. But the thing that I love about Ansel more than his images are his quotes. He said quite a few things that truly spoke to me, more than any other quotes have before. Everyone reads into quotes and images differently, which is why everyone has different inspirations. Ansel simply speaks more toward me than any other photographer.
I both love and hate Ansel, more specifically, I really respect Ansel, the photographer, but at the same time I think his work is utter uninspiring.
On one hand no single Photographer has done as much for furthering our art as Ansel did and we all owe him a tremendous debt for what he did to make Photography a more viable craft.
But his images, they are just plain boring. They were ok by the standards of his time with the equipment he had but compared to modern images of the average skilled photographer his work no longer stands up. Ansel was always more worried about technical perfection and systems than he ever was in the creative art side of photography and this shows in his work. They are all technically perfect images of mostly beautiful places but they are plain and boring. To me, a landscape image has failed if it is unable to make me "ache" to want to be at that location when I view the image. When looking at Ansel's work I have no desire at all to visit Yosemite, it makes those places feel "boring" (even though in reality I know that is is exciting and gorgeous)
But as a whole, I have never understood why we hold "old" things as being intrinsically better than the new. When I watch films like: Citizen Kane, Streetcar Named Desire, Casablanca and the Maltese Falcon I get that they were special for their time but the general consensus among reputable authority (such as the Academy) always rank them as being some of the best cinema mankind has ever produced. Sure the tech wasn't as good back then but the stories and acting are so far behind what modern filmmaking delivers that it is almost painful.
I feel the same applies to many Photographers who get a lot more credit for amazing work than they deserve. (Jerry Uelsman is another good example, although he was at least creative)
I have always felt that in the world of art in order for a piece to be great it has to be great before you A) know who made it and B) know how it was made. If you were to anonymously post Ansel's work on DeviantArt or on a place like 500px it would be largely ignored because it just isn't very good.
"On one hand no single Photographer has done as much for furthering our art as Ansel did and we all owe him a tremendous debt for what he did to make Photography a more viable craft."
I'll have to disagree there and say that Edward Weston did far more than Ansel Adams did to make photography as we know it today possible. Hell, ANSEL ADAMS owes a lot to Edward Weston. Metering, standardized f/stops and shutter speeds, standardized film sensitivity -- we owe pretty much everything that makes modern photography possible to Edward Weston (who also took much better photos than Ansel did).
That one is really subjective I suppose. Both were great pioneers to the craft and both made great gains. Hell, we all owe a debt to Nicéphore Niépce or Daguerre, even Weston, but at the same time how many people really know who they are without the help of google? I would argue that Ansel's greatest contribution was how much he was able to make the public more aware of photography (which Weston also contributed to). But really it is all very subjective. The reality is that measuring impact is impossible. How do you value contribution?
It is likely that give it another 10 or 20 years and Scott Kelby will be the one holding the title as having the most impact on photography and not because he is the greatest photographer but because he is a businessman who is simply able to have a tremendous impact on such a large community.
Not really. I think we are talking about apples and oranges here. You are talking about the influence of their photography and I am talking about the hard science they invented, developed and quantified.
Ansel Adams' contributions are pretty much subjective if you don't count the books, but there is an awful lot of hard basic photographic science found in those books. It is stuff that he worked out and quantified and that is not subjective. I'm not talking about his books of photos; I'm talking about his books like "The Print," which is about the science of basic darkroom photography (and Photoshop is based on this too). Without Ansel Adams, photography would be a whole lot of art and very little science, but it would at least be possible. Without Edward Weston, or someone just like him, modern photography would not be possible.
Edward Weston was a scientist and inventor in addition to being a photographer, and he invented quite a lot that still goes into a modern camera. Without him we would not have standardized shutter speeds, equivalent exposures, standardized f/stops, exposure meters (handheld or built in), gray cards and a whole lot more; he invented those things and they are not subjective.
Fact is that photography as we know it would not exist today without either of them -- because the cameras we use today would not exist without them. Oh, we would probably have something, but it would not be anything like the camera as we know it.
You are right, when I made my statement I was referring to Adam's impact on photography as an accepted art form and creative process as it is today. The technical aspects really mean little to me, you are right, had these men not existed, photographer would not be the same, but there is no way of knowing whether it would be inferior or superior as a result, it merely would be different. Without Weston I imagine someone else would have standardized them instead. There will never be any way of knowing whether that someone else would have done a better or worse job. Weston's method was effective and has proven effective for many decades but it doesn't mean it could not be better and could not have been better.
Why not? It is inevitable, we as a society always hold so much value in those who invent something first but the reality is that in most cases, especially if there is a need, someone will. There are simply too many humans on this planet not to.
Ya exactly, although, that article I think more wants to make the point that people don't know what they are talking about where as I would argue that photo just kinda is mediocre at best.
About a year ago I remember watching this video where one of the world's top violinists dressed in old clothes and took his $300,000 violin to a subway station in New York and began playing one of the most complex pieces of music ever written for the violin, No one noticed or really treated him any different than any other station pan handler.
People rank art due to exclusivity more than quality. Look at the work of Mark Rothko, he painted over 800 paintings of pretty much the same thing. Boxes with different colours. They all are messy and look like something a child might create. Many of his works are worth well over $100,000 and he has several in the list of most expensive art purchases in history, for example this one: [link] sold for $73 MILLION dollars a few years ago.
I don't see how I have mis-interrupted anything. My point was he played the violen in front of many potential onlookers while looking like a peddler and the vast majority of those who passed by didn't even notice. Now had he dressed in a suit and put a sign up saying "free concert from Joseph Bell, world renowned violinist" a crowd would likely have formed very quickly.
My point is that a lot of people associate artistic quality with the exclusivity of implied quality. Aka, the music is good but what makes it worth listening to is that it is being created by someone who is considered "great". There will always be a small minority that look past this veil but it represents exactly why Ansel's work is considered so amazing today. He was able to achieve fame in his time and now is sort of a legendary figure so his work is put on a pedestal beyond what it is.
Another example is art valuation. One would naturally assume that the best art should be the most expensive. But take a look at this image: [link] This is Rhein II by Andreas Gursky and is by far the most expensive photo print ever sold. Is this piece of art so amazing that it is worth millions of dollars or is it worth millions of dollars because of the implied exclusivity that it brings? While it is an interesting images and preference will vary I think you will have a time finding anyone that agrees that it is so much better than any other photo ever taken that it is worth millions more than any other?
A final example is that of the elite entertainment awards. Both the Oscars and the Grammys, while they tend to award an elite degree of skill a pre-requisite is actually fame. Without fame a filmmaker or musician never has any hope of even being nominated for such awards let alone winning, yet it doesn't take fame to be able to create breathtakingly amazing work. Does this mean those who win the awards are the best or simply those who have achieved a very high level of competency and also have the skillset required to market themselves to become famous?
It is a reality of the world we live in that in most cases society associates value and quality by something's history and not by the object in question. From everything from fashion to cars to art. We buy into brands more than anything else and in the images above it is Gursky's own personal "brand" which drives the value of his work and in turn also how good people consider that work to be. The same is true of Joseph Bell and of Adams.
Actually the Joshua Bell experiment and the examples you are raising are quite different. The points that you have raised about the paintings of Mark Rothko or the Gursky photo, I am actually in complete agreement with you. There are many in the art world that would agree with you on those points.
On the other hand, the Joshua Bell experiment was designed to avoid many of the issues you have raised. The skills of Bell as a violinist are uncontroversial whether you are a critic of classical music or not. The high quality of his instrument, a Stradivarius, is universally accepted. The pieces he played were uncontroversially "pretty" (things like Schubert's "Ave Maria"). He was not playing pieces by Bartok or Shostakovich that would require a more sophisticated listener. The whole idea was to avoid those types of issues. Instead the experiment was about perception. How well do we perceive what is uncontroversially art when confronted with it in an environment where it is not expected? We simply do not perceive things when our minds are not opened up and ready to perceive them. That is an important thing to keep in mind even for us rank amateur photographers.
Yes, I know what it wasn't "designed" to test what I am saying, and that the goal of the whole thing was completely different. It is the actions of what happened during the experiement to which I am using as my argument:
1. Very talented artist dresses in a way that would imply that he is not 2. Talented artist using a world class instrument plays beautiful music 3. Is largely ignored.
This is functionally the same as taking a famous photograph and posting it anonymously on a site like 500px, the odd person might recognize it but the majority will glance by it without a second thought. However, if the original artist posted that same image using his own name the number of users that notice the image will be strikingly higher.
Once again, returning to Bell, had he gone to another station and dressed in his concert attire and put up a sign like I said above people would instantly notice and a crowd would gather. It really is less about an unexpected environment and more about Joseph Bell failing to make it obvious that he is, indeed, Joseph Bell.
A good counter example to show this is when I used to live in Toronto one day I had just seen a film at the Young and Dundas square, when I walked out of the theatre there was a guy on the outdoor public stage who had just hopped up to play a free concert. Most people were for the most part ignoring him but I recognized him so decided to watch for a bit to see what happened. After a while he stopped playing and started to talk a bit into the mic and was joking about his career and eventually mentioned making music with Burton Cummings, almost instantly I saw a change in the crowd as they turned to take notice of him, by the time he finished talking most of the crowd had figured out that this just wasn't a random musician, it was legendary guitarist Randy Bachman from The Guess Who. When he started playing music again he had a crowd the size of the entire square screaming and enjoying his music.
The quality of the music did not change from the start to the end, the only thing that changed was the crowd's perception of who was on stage playing it.
I think we mostly agree on your original points and where we disagree we are talking past each other making different points.
There are two questions here that are quite separate. 1. Do we accept something as art because it is presented to us in a venue that claims it is art? 2. If art is presented to us in a context that does not claim to be art would we still recognize it as art?
I think you were arguing point 1 and I was more concerned with point 2.
For point 1, you used as an example the paintings of Mark Rothko. You will only see Rothko's work in a gallery, not the DC metro. Whenever I see one of Rothko's paintings in a gallery, I always ask myself "Is that really art? Where is the creativity in this work? Haven't I seen this same painting several times before?" I'm old and I've been around for a while and I have seen his work multiple times. I enjoy abstract art immensely, but Rothko's work still raises those questions for me. If someone else did similar work under there own name no one would care, but put Rothko's name on it and the value increases immensely. This, I think, is the point you were trying to make and I agree with it completely.
On the other hand, Joshua Bell did perform in a subway. His work is not inaccessible and even a student could afford to hear him perform (as long as they don't demand the best seats in the house). No 6th grader could mimic his performance convincingly, either. The art was there, but most people failed to perceive it. What he presented was point 2 which I argue is a different point altogether. The arguments of inaccessibilty and ease of mimicry of your other examples do not hold in this case which is why I considered it an inappropriate example for the argument you were trying to make which I do think has a lot of validity
Yeah, it's more interesting reading the comments though. Basically, they're claiming that you could only appreciate this photo if you knew it's history...and, well, that's not a reason why I like photos (or art in general), but cause it is interesting for me to look at.
The violin example...people just tend to ignore, or tune out street musicians. That said, a complex musical piece doesn't mean it's interesting.
But that is exactly my point, a great art piece is only great if it is great when you take away all knowledge of how it was produced or what is involved in it's making. If a complex song is not wonderful to listen to, it is merely complex, not great. It is just like a good joke, no one cares about how you came up with it or how old it is, a joke is either funny or it isn't and if you have to explain why it is funny the joke has failed.
Yes, I know, and I'm agreeing with you on this 100%. Don't really care how complex a song or a photo or something is, as long as it's pleasing to listen to/look at. Heck, one of my all time favorite songs is also one of the simplest songs I've ever heard.
In many ways i agree but his light composition and black and white take a lot of beating myself my prefernce with photography are the late great peter dombroskis or hans strand and of course my hubby geoff woods lol but i make you right i think there are far better than him peter i would say was one of the best.
Whether you love him or hate him, check out the exhibition - his prints are amazing to look at. Try to push artistic cynicism aside and view it as purely technical if you have to (because technically, they are amazing), but check the exhibition out.