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Method and Art of Ansel Adams


Stieglitz and Steichen introduced modern European art as early as 1909 ... Met Paul Strand in Taos. ... Also met John Marin and Georgia O'Keefe in Taos and ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Method and Art of Ansel Adams

Method and Art ofAnsel Adams
  • ARHI 198 Directed Reading
  • Professor Tad Beckman
  • Gautam Thatte, 11/22/2002

  • How and when was Ansel Adams introduced to
  • The shift from pictorialism to modernism
  • What was Group f/64?
  • Technical Legacy of Ansel Adams
  • Examining some photographs

Introduction to Photography
  • Was first introduced to it in the 1915 San
    Francisco Panama Pacific Intl Exposition
  • Took pictures of Yosemite on his first trip there
    using his Kodak 1 Box Brownie
  • Part-time work with a photo-finisher for two
    winters comprised his photographic schooling
  • In 1921, some of his photos were published in a
    Yosemite magazine and even sold there

  • Adams gave up the pictorialist approach by 1925,
    and in the spring of 1926, met an ardent patron
    in Albert Bender
  • In 1927, Adams published his first portfolio,
    Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras

Why black and white photography?
  • He never processed his color films or made his
    own color prints
  • Rarely would an image fit the camera format so
    perfectly that Adams felt no change was
  • About In Color, colleague Al Weber remarked only
    twelve out of fifty prints, over forty years,
    warranted printing

Pictorialism to Modernism
Hand of Man (Stieglitz, 1902)
Wheels (Sheeler, 1939)
Influencing Factors
  • Visited the artist colonies in Santa Fe and Taos
    in the late 1920s
  • Stieglitz and Steichen introduced modern European
    art as early as 1909

Cubism was an important influence it was being
better understood and mimicked through the
photographic medium. This geometric influence
yielded machinery and city architecture, and
numerous close-ups and severely cropped views.
- Rosenblum
  • Met Paul Strand in Taos. He showed Adams his
    negatives and this caused Adams to finally
    commit to photography as a career
  • Also met John Marin and Georgia OKeefe in Taos
    and inherited the idea of using indigenous
    American elements as subjects
  • Edward Weston converted to straight photography
    years before Adams did his works were an
    inspiration, but his vegetables seem contrived
    until Adams photographed Rose and Driftwood

Group f/64
  • Forming Group f/64 was the idea of Willard Van
    Dyke and Preston Holder
  • Saw that their colleagues better understood the
    modernist principles through their art Ansel in
    the Sierras, Imogen Cunninghams plant and nude
    forms, and their belief that Westons work was
    superior to that of Strand

  • Pure photography did not mean no manipulation
    it was agreed that negatives and prints could be
    manipulated as long as a prescribed list of
    techniques considered to be photographic in
    nature was used. The choice of lens could alter
    spatial relations and relative scale. The tonal
    contrast of the negative could be enhanced or
    diminished during development. Dodging and
    burning during the printing of the image could
    lighten or darken specific areas of the
    photograph. But all of these techniques could be
    used only to a limited degree, so that they did
    not interfere with the essence of the reality of
    the scene before the photographer.

The Group f/64 Manifesto
(No Transcript)
Did Adams photograph only landscapes?
  • Rose and Driftwood and other portraits
  • Commercial assignments for Polaroid and United
    States Potash
  • Documentary photography
  • including the Manzanar
  • relocation camps, and
  • Three Mormon Towns

Technical Legacy of Adams
  • Explained visualization, the zone system (with
    Fred Archer) and printing
  • Attempted to make his photographs and his
    teaching available
  • Books included Making a Photograph, the Basic
    Photo Series and Examples The Making of 40

  • The conscious process of projecting the final
    photographic image in the mind before taking the
    first steps in actually photographing the subject
  • Adams recognized that visualization is not arcane
    and is intuitive for many people, and wrote the
    Basic Photo Series to refine the process for
    those who were familiar with it, and to assist
    those individuals who strive to create
    aesthetically pleasing photographs
  • Requires technical knowledge of all the resources
    available when taking the photograph lenses,
    filters, light meters etc

The Zone System
  • The Zone System divides the range of tones
    produced by a printing paper into ten zones
    ranging from Zone 0 (pure black) to Zone IX (pure
    white), with Zone V representing middle gray
  • Assists in deciding which elements of a
    photograph should consist of detail
  • Representation of a wider range of zones is

Aspens Northern New Mexico, 1958
An excellent example of representing every zone
Printing Process
  • Had an excellent mastery over the technical
    aspects of photography
  • He experimented with various papers, and
    development techniques from the very beginning
  • Believed that photographs should be reproducible
    and at the same quality

Photographs of Ansel Adams
Moonrise represents the product of a series of
conscious interpretive decisions by the
photographer, not simply the record of a
beautiful scene. At each stage of the process,
Adams applied his technical mastery of the medium
to create an image that would convey the emotions
he felt. Jonathan Spaulding
Monolith, The Face of Half Dome
  • Image was Adams first conscious visualization
  • Knew after the first exposure that the effect he
    wanted would be achieved by using a red filter

Moonrise, Hernandez
  • Most popular image
  • Could not find his Weston exposure meter!
  • Resulted in only one negative
  • Did not accurately date this photograph

Mount Williamson, Manzanar
  • Site of the Manzanar Relocation Camp
  • Was a very high-contrast image and printing was
    rather difficult at first
  • Is this a real photo?

  • Alinder, Mary Street. Ansel Adams, A Biography
  • Spaulding, Jonathan. Ansel Adams and the American
  • Seeing Straight f.64. Essays by Naomi Rosenblum
    and Therese Thau Heyman