Ansel Adams: Classic Images
Ansel Adams, James Alinder & John Szarkowski
Bulfinch, 2003 (1985)
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
ooking at the splendid cover photograph and flipping through the pages gives an impression of a clarity of vision, perfect composition, crisp, fresh images, and of course, familiarity. Just as Shakespeare's quotations have become part of the English language, so have Adams' perspectives been absorbed as visual icons. They are ubiquitous, glimpsed often on calendars, in framed reproductions and posters (I have one on the wall at home) and in so many lovely art books. This one includes seventy-five
selected by the photographer as representative of his work and exhibited as
The Museum Set
ohn Szarkowski's perceptive introduction attempts to explain the artist's extraordinary popularity. He tells us that Adams knew that '
the landscape is not only a place but an event
' and that his '
photographs seem to demonstrate that our world is what we would wish it was - a place with room in it for fresh beginnings.
' This is followed by James Alinder's biography essay on the artist's background and achievements. He tells us that Adams, born in 1902, was raised in an idyllic San Francisco location in '
a decade of great change
'. He was a hyperactive child, tutored privately for some time, who spent one year in the '
' of the great San Francisco fair to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal. He taught himself piano and learned from it both the need for practice and the nature of perfection.
hen a 1916 family visit to Yosemite, along with an introduction to photography, set the course of the artist's life. Alinder tells us that the '
spiritual importance of the mountains
' to Ansel's development cannot be overstated. He talks of the photographer's feeling for light, his passion for beauty, his concept of visualization, and the impact of Group f/64 on his work. Adams was eventually awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. '
He was a great photographer and a leader in the environmental movement, an impressive musician, a writer of significance ... and a force that became a symbol of a life well spent.
' At the back of the book, Alinder provides a useful
of the artist's life and photographs.
ut most of the content of this beautiful volume is what we all look for from Ansel Adams - superb black and white images that evoke a range of feelings and a longing to get out in the wilderness. There are the amazing Yosemite photos, such as the
Bridal Veil Falls
, and the cover picture of
Moon and Half Dome
. There's the famed
in New Mexico, which puts human life in perspective against an expanse of black sky (Adams often incorporates sky in his images, with a small moon, mist or turbulent clouds.) I love his perspectives on sand dunes and over lakes, and the sequence over time of surf on a beach. Churches, like peaks, are on a height, the view sloping reverently upwards.
delightful, love the detail of textures in
Rose and Driftwood
, appreciate the energy in
and the power of the huge boulders in front of
. I could rave on, but if you enjoy Ansel Adams' photography as much as I do, this is one art book that you should acquire yourself. It will be opened often.
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