The Impact of ansel adams The evolution of photography, from the very beginning to the modern technology we have today, is largely due to a few select specialists that took the matter into their own hands. Many discoveries were made about photography during the late 1800’s and into the 1900’s, but none greater than the discoveries of Ansel Adams. Ansel Adams made a huge impact on photography because of his technological advances, environmental work, and how he won the hearts of many with his beautiful works of art. Ansel Adams was a very talented photographer who captured beautiful photographs from day one.
He had many accomplishments in his lifetime such as creating the Zone System, saving National Parks, working as an environmentalist and more. Adams was born into an upper-class San Francisco family in 1902. He was an only child and as a boy, he had no friends (“Ansel Adams”). He grew up among sand dunes and the sea cliffs, developing a love for nature very early in his life. Ansel Adams became interested in piano before he started photographing. Adams had an eidetic memory, causing his to excel in learning and memorizing notes (Alinder, 45).
Piano playing caused him to meet his future wife, Virginia Best, in Yosemite later in his years but Photography won him over his music career. Ansel Adams specialized in black-and-white photography. Some of his most famous black-and-whites are taken at Yosemite. His uses of contrast and differences in texture are captivating and different. No other photographer of his time could capture the images he did. Yosemite Valley, Thunderstorm, Moon and Half Dome, and Monolith, The Face of Half Dome are all great examples of his Yosemite work.
Ansel Adams spent a majority of his life visiting Yosemite National Park. When he was only seventeen; he joined the Sierra Club, a Yosemite Defense Association founded by John Muir in 1892 (Alinder, 28) Soon, when Adams realized that he was a good photographer and could make a living doing this; he was elected to the Sierra Club board of directors as the Defender of Yosemite and the Artist of the Sierra Nevada (Turnage). In 1927, Adams met another photographer named Edward Weston. Shortly after the two met, they formed a small group of photographers called Group f/64.
Group f/64 was a group of about 16 photographers who all came together with the same purpose, to promote and produce a new modern type of photography. Within the group, many of the photographers, such as Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Willard Van Dyke, and others, “…espoused in response to the Pictorialist methods that were still in fashion at the time in California (“Group f/64”). ” Together they all came up with the name of ‘Straight Photography’, describing the depth of the photograph as the name does as well. “…They must take a united stand in favor of straight photography. Alinder, 85)” The name f/64 is a small aperture setting on a camera which applies more depth and clearness to a photo while shooting (Krehbiel). “It signifies to a large extent the qualities of clearness and definition of the photographic image which is an important element in the work of members of this group… (Alinder, 87). ” The group strove to make the people see photography as an art form instead of a hobby or an interest. They focused on taking pictures of things found in nature. They refrained from tampering with beautiful scenery found among nature (Alinder, 85).
Ansel Adams played a large role in Group f/64. Because of his involvement, they created many exhibitions that he oversaw and prepared for (Alinder, 86, 87). The first and most important was in San Francisco at the de Young Museum in 1932. The show was open to the public and ran for six weeks with a display of eighty photographs taken by various photographers in the Group f/64 (“Group f/64”). The manifesto of the group was also on display to the public at the exhibition. The manifesto went against all current rules for photography and was a risky move on their part. The most important ‘rule’ in the manifest was:
Group f/64 limits its members and invitational names to those workers who are striving to define photography as an art form by simple and direct presentation through purely photographic methods. The Group will show no work at any time that does not conform to its standards of pure photography. Pure photography is defined as possessing no qualities of technique, composition or idea, derivative of any other art form. The production of the “Pictorialist,” on the other hand, indicates a devotion to principles of art which are directly related to painting and the graphic arts. (Krehbiel)
With this manifest, the current group created ‘rules’ so to speak that the Group f/64 was all about. “Although its content was surely ratified to some extent by the others, all or most of the one page statement was written by Ansel… (Alinder, 87). ” Group f/64 finally disbanded during the depression because most of the members moved away from San Francisco leaving the group completely. Adams is considered still, today one of the major contributor to their success. (Alinder, 89) Ansel Adams, with the help of his good friend Fred Archer, created a photographic technique called the Zone System. The tonal contrast of the negative could be enhanced or diminished by different combinations of exposure and development, a concept that would later become the basis of Ansel’s framed Zone System (Alinder, 90). ” The Zone System is a technique for professional photographers to use for developing their negatives for the “perfect results”. (Ansel, Camera and Lens, 23) Because of this discovery, Adams was soon to become straight photography’s most articulate and insistent champion. [Ed. Note: Manipulated in this instance meaning altering the clarity or content of the photographed subject matter.
Techniques such as "burning” and "dodging”, as well as the Zone System, a scientific system developed by Adams, is used specifically to "manipulate” the tonality and give the artist the ability to create as opposed to record]. (Turnage) “The Zone System won’t produce perfect negatives in most cases; however, it will produce better negatives, often the best negatives possible under specific conditions. (Suess, 115)” The Zone System was originally designed for black and white film, as both of the photographers who created it specialized in black and white photography; but the technique can also be applied on color film as well. Suess, 114) The key to the System is to visualize the photograph before taking it, setting the exposure levels properly, and using the Zone Systems’ ISO methods of development to create the perfect developed photos. (Adams, Camera and Lens, 24) “…Zone System, which assigned visible light to eleven zones numbered from zero (absolute black) to Roman numeral ten (absolute white)” (Alinder, 190). The Zone System is great for understanding the technical process of creating a photograph but sometimes it can get out of hand. The Zone System is helpful in understanding the relationships of subject luminances, film densities, and print values…” (Adams, The Camera, 167) The creative mind needs to be present during photography otherwise no good outcome will occur. If it is only a technical process, the photographer will spend all of his or her time taking environment tests and attempting a perfect working condition. The system can be personalized and applied to personal equipment and cameras by applying to the climate in question during the photo-shoot. (Suess, 116)
Unless you are using exactly the same materials with exactly the same equipment under the same conditions, there are variables that can change the resulting negatives (e. g. , the color of the light, subject, and filters- the filter factor is different under different conditions). In my work, I’ve found that using a personalized Zone System allows me to produce consistent negatives with ample shadow detail. It makes printing easier, but rarely produces the mythical “Perfect Negative. ” (Suess, 114) Only some Photographers like using the Zone System, and only under certain conditions.
If setting up every photograph and trying to create perfect shots, it’s is best to keep the Zone System fresh in mind. However, for those who are the point and shoot types, trying to remember the Zone System and its components; every shot is a hassle (Suess, 115). All the same darkroom techniques are required to create an image using the Zone System. Even an increase in the contrast of the photograph before printing always brings out the beauty in the true photo. With the invention of this system, Ansel Adams and Fred Archer opened up a door to crisper and clearer black and white photographs.
Ansel Adams died on April 22, 1984 from respiratory arrest due to cardiogenic shock and congestive heart failure. (Alinder, 370). He was eighty-two years of age and lived a successful life filled with artistic and happy years. His photographs inspired many young photographers (including myself) to pursue their dreams. What Ansel Adams accomplished will remain in the hearts of all for many years to come. Works Cited Adams, Ansel. Camera and Lens. New York: Morgan ; Morgan Inc. , 1970. This book, written by Adams himself, was a help to me in understanding the Zone System.
I received a great amount of information on how it works and the purpose of it. It didn’t explain very much the ways of using it but was a helpful source nonetheless. Adams, Ansel. The Camera. New York: Little Brown and Company, 1980. This book, also written by Adams, was another help with understanding the process of the Zone system. Although this book focuses more on the camera itself, the details in this source were well worth the reading and gave a new approach on photography for his time. “Ansel Adams. ” Wikipedia. 15 Nov. 2011. ;http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Ansel_Adams;.
This Wikipedia site reassured everything I had learned already. It included more background information about certain exhibitions and club events that were not mentioned in other books. Alinder, Mary S. Ansel Adams. New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc. , 1996. This biography by Mary Alinder gave me an insight on the whole life of Ansel Adams. As a long time family friend of Adams, Alinder gave good details on every portion of his life, including the portion of his life in group f/64 and the Sierra club which was what I was most interested in. “Group f/64. ” Wikipedia. 17 Nov. 2011. ;http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Group_f/64;.
This insight on Group f/64 was extremely helpful. This gave me lists of other books and sites to check out for more information and it also gave me lists of names of other group members. It described some of their exhibitions and their club beginnings. Krehbiel, Donald. “Group f/64 Manifesto. ” 23 Nov. 2011. ;http://kcbx. net/~mhd/1intro/f64. htm;. This site was helpful because it listed the group f/64 manifesto or ‘rulebook’ that the club went by. The rules were stated in order that they appeared on the original copy of the manifest that was on display at the de Young Museum for their first exhibition.
Suess, Bernhard J. Creative Black-And-White. New York: Allworth Press, 1988 This book is almost a how-to book because it tells you so much information on the best way to take pictures. It explains a lot about different parts of manual cameras and describes the Zone System and discusses problems it could have in the process of it. Turnage, William A. “Ansel Adams Biography. ” The Ansel Adams Gallery. 21 Nov. 2011. ;http://www. anseladams. com/searchresults. asp? cat=51;. I used this biography for personal information on Adams as well as supporting information on the Sierra Club and its dealings along with Group f/64.
Works Consulted “Group f. 64. ” Encyclop? dia Britannica. Encyclop? dia Britannica Online. Encyclop? dia Britannica Inc. , 2011. Web. 28 Nov. 2011. ;http://www. britannica. com/EBchecked/topic/247121/Group-f64;. This was a very short piece of information and it was pointless to me because I already had the information it held. Being an Encyclopedia entry it was very short and to the point. I didn’t need this repeat of information. Hostetler, Lisa. “Group f/64”. In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www. metmuseum. org/toah/hd/f64/hd_f64. htm (October 2004)
This source gives you a viewing of all of the work done by people in Group f/64. This site also includes background information about Group f/64 but it was all repeated of the information I already had from better sources. “Photographs by Group f/64 on View this fall at the Portland Museum of Art. ” 21 Nov. 2011. http://www. artknowledgenews. com/2010-07-20-00-18-12-photographs-by-group-f-64-on-view-this-fall-at-the-portland-museum-of-art. html. Again, more information I already had supporting details for on Group f/64. This site included an example photograph from one of the members and another copy of the manifest which I already had.