Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ansel Adams

Some photographers become famous after making one sensational shot. Others, with advanced camera these days, are able to produce the occasional beautiful images. In my opinion, the pursuit of excellence and perfection in photography goes far beyond the serendipitous shots. It requires constant honing of one's skill over years, or even decades.

This evening our camera club screened a documentary on Ansel Adams. After watching, I am left with a very positive impression about this man. I think he represents what great work in photography is really all about. First and foremost, it is about passion and hard work. Adams spent decades in the wilderness of Yosemite, making long treks and photographing every single day with hardly any breaks. He did not make a lot of money. In fact his wife supported him, rather than the other way around. He only made a lot of money and gained fame and recognition only in his sunset years - long after he had stopped his prolific photography work.

His most active years were during the Great Depression. He was criticised for taking pictures of the stones and waterfalls; his critics thought he should have spent his time doing socio-documentary work. It is only decades later that people could appreciate that his work directly influenced the US government to set up preservation parks in the Yosemite area. Future generations can thank him for that. Adam's contribution had been as much to the environment as he had been to photography.

Ansel also did a lot of post processing work. He did a lot of dodging and burning in the darkroom. He spent hours making print and print until he perfected one. He likened the negatives to the music score (he was a pianist too), and the post processing to the music conductor. The same negative, under different hands, can produce different results. This is something to think about, for those who harbour disdain for any post processing work.

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