How Adams’ Arrived At His Endless Horizons of Meaning

by | Feb 24, 2013

Thanks to advances in point-and-shoot technology, everyone’s a photographer today, or so we imagine. Of course, taking pictures for fun is a different practice altogether than making images of artistic quality with a camera.

For more information on the latter, please see the following documentary from 1958 about Ansel Adams’ technical approach to photography.

“Perhaps music is the most expressive of the arts,” suggests Adams. “However, as a photographer, I believe that creative photography, when practiced in terms of its inherent qualities, may also reveal endless horizons of meaning.” Indeed.

Adams proved his belief over and over again, as he traveled the American West with his marvelous eye and technical skills. He helped us see Yosemite and the West in new and unexpected ways. He helped us get to know and cherish our most magical lands. That he accomplished this with the help of technology goes without saying, but I marvel at the analog nature of it all and the manual labor involved.

We use our tools and our training to see the world and to make meaning of the world we see. It seems fair to ask how our modern technology is aiding or clouding our vision as artists and as people. Let’s consider that filmmakers Orson Wells and John Huston never had the benefits of digital cameras or editing suites. Same with Adams; yet the visions shared by these masters are impecable.

Likewise, America’s greatest writers are from a time before the widespread adoption of the computer. Moby Dick, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, For Whom The Bell Tolls, and hundreds of other American classics were not made with the powerful tools of our time. They were written longhand prior to being transcribed into a manuscript.

My point here is there’s something valuable to be gained by knowing, honoring and practicing the old ways. I’m not writing this article by longhand, nor am I putting it through several rounds of edits. Be that as it may, I know that process and revisit it frequently.

Source: Open Culture