I often hear Ansel Adams invoked during discussions on photography. Many times, it is apparent that the person invoking Adams knows little about him or his life, but read a few lines somewhere written by some obscure person who said whatever it was about Adams that they then repeated as true. Oftentimes what people say about him is partially in error or just plain wrong. An example of this took place on a recent photography trip I was on where one of the photography leaders was talking about Adams and gave a somewhat wrong account of how Adams became a financial and public success and of when he died. Another example took place in a photography forum that I occasionally visit where someone said Adams photographed on top of his car right up the end of his life (very romantic but it would have been a difficult task at 82).
I, of course, do not know everything about Ansel Adams either, but I have read a great deal about him written by people who worked very closely with him and I have studied many of his photographs printed in the books that I collect on him and I continue to study them. The books I have read were written by people like Mary Street Alinder, his executive assistant from 1979 until his death; she wrote and then finished his Ansel Adams: an Autobiographysoon after his death in 1984 and produced several other books on him as well as an interesting read on Group f.64. Another book is written by Andrea Stillman, an assistant of his for seven years in the 1970s, who wrote Looking at Ansel Adams: The Photographs and the Manand includes a wonderful timeline from 1902, his birth year, through 1984, the year he died, and on to 2005, detailing an exhibition at Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Both of these writers talk about his wonderful sense of humor, his master of technique, the beauty of his work, his dedication to all things photography, and what he contributed to photography in general.
I really bemoan the fact that I missed my opportunity to meet Adams, even though I lived in California during the time period of his life. Unfortunately, I did not take up the art of photography until 2010, long after Adams died. I do hear, occasionally, people I know say that they attended one of his classes or talked with him a bit at some point in time. I also know someone who has one of his original portfolios, Portfolio IV, which they have actually let me see and touch: I felt honored and was so impressed by the technical beauty of the prints and the absolute beauty of the images. Many of the portfolio images were of the smaller subjects we see in nature and the photo of the Ferns included here was, to me, reminiscent of the subjects that Adams often selected. I like this photo better in color, but used black and white in honor of Adams, who really was not fond of color photography.
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