Ansel Adams was a great American photographer, most well known as a master landscape artist. Most of his photographs depict natural landscapes of the American west. Born in San Francisco in 1902, Ansel Adams trained as a concert pianist before deciding to become photographer. He became famous for the technical skill with which he produced spectacular images of the American landscape. He advocated straight and un-manipulated photography. His works were exhibited all around the country, and he helped establish the department of photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 1940, and was awarded a number of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation to photograph National Parks in America.
Influential as both a teacher and lecturer, he was also an avid conservationist. He published many books of his images, and also technical and training guides to teach beginning photographers. In 1980, Ansel Adams was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the highest civilian honor in the United States.
Throughout his long and storied career, he also was frequently quoted about photography, and often conservation of our natural resources. Following are some of his simple, though often deep, quotations, sourced from brainyquote.com.
- “A good photograph is knowing where to stand.”
- “A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed.”
- “A photograph is usually looked at – seldom looked into.”
- “A true photograph need not be explained, nor can it be contained in words.”
- “Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships.”
- “I tried to keep both arts alive, but the camera won. I found that while the camera does not express the soul, perhaps a photograph can!”
- “In my mind’s eye, I visualize how a particular… sight and feeling will appear on a print. If it excites me, there is a good chance it will make a good photograph. It is an intuitive sense, an ability that comes from a lot of practice.”
- “In wisdom gathered over time I have found that every experience is a form of exploration.”
- “It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.”
- “It is my intention to present – through the medium of photography – intuitive observations of the natural world which may have meaning to the spectators.”
- “Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer – and often the supreme disappointment.”
- “Millions of men have lived to fight, build palaces and boundaries, shape destinies and societies; but the compelling force of all times has been the force of originality and creation profoundly affecting the roots of human spirit.”
- “No man has the right to dictate what other men should perceive, create or produce, but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions, and to build confidence in the creative spirit.”
- “Not everybody trusts paintings but people believe photographs.”
- “Photography is more than a medium for factual communication of ideas. It is a creative art.”
- “Photography, as a powerful medium of expression and communications, offers an infinite variety of perception, interpretation and execution.”
- “Some photographers take reality… and impose the domination of their own thought and spirit. Others come before reality more tenderly and a photograph to them is an instrument of love and revelation.”
- “Sometimes I do get to places just when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.”
- “The negative is comparable to the composer’s score and the print to its performance. Each performance differs in subtle ways.”
- “The only things in my life that compatibly exists with this grand universe are the creative works of the human spirit.”
- “There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.”
- “There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.”
- “There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.”
- “These people live again in print as intensely as when their images were captured on old dry plates of sixty years ago… I am walking in their alleys, standing in their rooms and sheds and workshops, looking in and out of their windows. Any they in turn seem to be aware of me.”
- “To photograph truthfully and effectively is to see beneath the surfaces and record the qualities of nature and humanity which live or are latent in all things.”
- “Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.”
- “We must remember that a photograph can hold just as much as we put into it, and no one has ever approached the full possibilities of the medium.”
- “When I’m ready to make a photograph, I think I quite obviously see in my minds eye something that is not literally there in the true meaning of the word. I’m interested in something which is built up from within, rather than just extracted from without.
- “When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.”
- “Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.”
- “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.”
If you found this article stimulating then you’ll probably like The Making of 40 Photographsby Ansel Adams.