Gallery of Fine Art Photography - Atlanta GA


Ansel Adams & Today’s Technology

Would He Embrace Photoshop?

Would Ansel Adams sit behind a computer in his Carmel home, editing his latest photograph in Photoshop? Would the man who wrote dozens of books, including volumes called: The Negative and The Print, archive his RAW files in Lightroom? Would the man who championed the zone system, now create apps and plug-ins? More than 30 years after this influential photographer’s death, younger generations of artists are asking similar questions.READ ENTIRE ARTICLE

Michael Adams, Ansel’s son, said in a recent lecture at The Booth Western Art Museum, that his father “absolutely” was interested in the latest technology and eagerly looked forward to the next wave of photographic innovation.
Jeanne & Michael Adams - recent visit to Lumière

Jeanne & Michael Adams – recent visit to Lumière

Ansel Adams passed away in 1984 when digital photography was still referred to as electronic, but given the amount of effort and time Adams spent perfecting traditional black and white printing, it seems logical that he would continue advancing the medium.
“I eagerly await new concepts and processes. I believe that the electronic image will be the next major advance. Such systems will have their own inherent and inescapable structural characteristics, and the artist and functional practitioner will again strive to comprehend and control them. ” Adams wrote in the final printing of his book, The Negative, in 1981.
One indicator of Adams’ forward thinking is the little known fact that he worked extensively in color, mainly on commercial projects. During his life, Adams made close to 3,500 color photographs beginning with the invention of Kodachrome film (color slides) in the mid 1930s.
One reason Adams published so few color photographs during his lifetime, is that color reproduction was inaccurate and limited at that time. Other photographers of Adams’ generation, such as Wynn Bullock, worked in color but also did not trust the printing processes of that era to show their work in its best light. An online examination of Bullock’s work, which was printed using archival methods in recent years, is available here, “Adams didn’t believe that the color processes of his day could produce results to compare with the rich visual deliberation, the fine-grained luxuriance of his work in black and white. To put it bluntly, he didn’t think he could control the outcome with color, and for Adams control over the artistic process meant everything. But he valued the richness of color transparencies, looked forward to the day when it would be possible to print them to his own high standards, and came close to producing a book about color theory and practice that would include some of his own work,” wrote Time magazine critic Richard Lacayo, in a 2009 article.
Lacayo goes on to ask the same question that readers may be thinking right now – how can we know what Adams would do today? “Digital color correction now allows us to make fine adjustments in Adams’ pictures to produce prints with subtleties that weren’t possible in his lifetime. But can we be sure that pictures printed after his death give us just the colors he would have wanted? Of course not. He was an exacting man, and there’s no way of knowing precisely what shade of gray-green or yellow-beige would have worked best for him or whether he was sure of what it should be until he saw it.” “He was smart enough to know that pictures are just fictions that point us back to realities with a fresh eye and that an artist is someone who adjusts the fictions to match his instincts. We value his pictures as much as we do because his instincts were first-rate, but all we can hope to do is approximate his intentions,” concludes Lacayo.
Adams’ work with Dr. Edwin Land of the Polaroid Corporation on the evolution of instant films provides further proof of Adams’ openness to the future. There’s a world of difference between the contemplative process of using a view camera and the instant result of a Polaroid camera. Land and Adams met in 1947 at an optics convention, and once Adams saw what Polaroid cameras could do, he immediately became a consultant. Adams was still testing films and cameras for the company up until his death.
“There it was, (a Polaroid image) brown and of rather awful quality. But, by gosh, it was a one-minute picture! And that excited me to no end,” Adams said.
Type 55 film, which debuted in 1961, was an Adams favorite, because it contained both a print side and a reusable large format negative. El Capitan, Sunrise, Winter, Yosemite National Park, California, 1968, was shot on Polaroid film.
According to The Economist, the success of Adams’ collaboration with Dr. Land laid the groundwork for Polaroid’s later sponsorship of younger artists. “When Land saw how useful Adams was in suggesting improvements to his product he began Polaroid’s Artist Support Program which offered grants of cameras and film to artists such as Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg in order to have his products tested to their limits.”
Previously on view (Nov 2015 – March 2016), Ansel Adams: Before and After, an exhibition co-curated by Lumière at the Booth Museum in Cartersville GA, generated many ideas about Adams’ legacy through an examination of his work and the artists that came directly before and after him.
This extensive exhibition featured over 100 images, including a cross-section of 25 original photographs by Adams. Other photographers in the exhibition included: Alfred Steiglitz, Paul Strand, Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, Dorothea Lange, Laura Gilpin, Brett Weston, Pirkle Jones, William Garnett, Bradford Washburn, Barry Goldwater, Cole Weston, and Philip Hyde. Contemporary photographers included, Al Weber, Robert Weingarten, Jay Dusard, Bob Kolbrener, Peter Essick, Tim Barnwell, Douglas Keats, Cara Weston, Robert Glenn Ketchum, Tom Murphy, John Mariana, Julieanne Kost, and Rex Naden.
Additional information about Adams’ work, can be found on his Artist Page.
This is the first article in a series of four providing a Deeper Look at the work of Ansel Adams.

Posted in: a Deeper Look


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