In my mind's eye, I visualize how a particular... sight and feeling will appear on a print. If it excites me, there is a good chance it will make a good photograph. It is an intuitive sense, an ability that comes from a lot of practice. ~ Ansel Adams
Really the name "Ansel Adams" is just shorthand for "landscape photography", wonderful, inspiring, landscape photography. This incredible exhibition of over 150 prints and documentary film footage charts Adams career from the 1920s to the 1960s as he tells the story of the valleys and hills of Yosemite, the Californian Sierra Nevada mountains and the flow of the Pacific ocean at Point Sur.
Of course I am familiar with Adams' work, appreciated it, as any one with a vague interest in photography does. However I've never been that inspired by landscape photographs, but seeing Adams work in context and understanding how he came to create the images that he did completely converted me. I love the story of "the last plate", where his first meaningful photograph was the only plate he had left after a day of hiking and photography and he actually stopped and thought "I need to take a picture of how this valley makes me feel, not just the valley itself". How he was quietly one of the first "environmentalists" dedicating his life to capturing the beauty of America's wilderness and in doing so acted to prompt it's conservation. Adams' photographs came into being in the darkroom, dodging and burning to get the effect he wanted, he said "the negative is the composer's score, the print is the conductor's performance". I like that, it shows that even "real" photography is crafted to become art. It doesn't just come straight out of a camera.
It was also interesting to see his portraits and abstracts of nature, images which I had never come across before. However it was his lanscapes that really stood head and shoulders above the rest, you can loose yourself in an Adams' moonrise. I adore the natural world, I love being it it, to me it represents freedom, sublimity, heroism. I've always thought it would be impossible to capture what I see and more importantly how it makes me feel through a viewfinder. Adams' however managed to pour his magic into a little box, make a mountain look how it feels as opposed to geology, not only photograph the weather but also the quality of the air, capture Earth's beauty.
Photographs featured above:
1. Moon and Half Dome, Yosemite National Park (1941)
2. Moonrise over Hernandez, New Mexico (1941)
3. Roots, Foster Gardens, Honolulu, T.H. (1948)
The Ansel Adams "Celebration of Genius" Exhibition is on at the City Art Centre, Edinburgh until April 19th 2008. Entry is £4.00.