Ansel Adams: Celebration of Genius
- David Pollock
- 31 January 2008
The name Ansel Adams is virtual shorthand for landscape photography at its finest. A shy child prodigy, home-schooled and self-taught to read and play music at the age of 12, the teenaged Californian first experienced photography two years later, playing with the Box Brownie his parents bought him around the mountains of Yosemite. Under the patronage of the philanthropist Albert M Bender and the mutual creative influence of photographer Edward Weston, he would eventually give up a promising early career as a concert pianist to combine his greatest loves, photography and nature, as a vocation.
Adams was a lifelong proponent of ‘straight photography’, an ‘as is’ method of creating an image which made no use of camera trickery or excessive darkroom manipulation, yet the stark, sharp, crisply-defined black and white pictures he took are loaded with their own, almost unconscious, narrative. In the largely unpeopled rocks and plains and valleys of the American West Adams captured, there were romantic re-engagements with the pioneer spirit of those who had settled on these lands long before. It’s hard to imagine that John Ford or Jack Kerouac, for instance, might have lasted their entire careers without considering Adams’ work.
‘The world is falling to pieces and all Adams photograph(s) is rocks and trees,’ Henri Cartier-Bresson is alleged to have once complained. Yet, the photographer, an environmentalist before the term was popularised, knew that the world of nature is at least as important as the world of man. Featuring 150 photographs from the 1920s to the 1960s, this is the first Ansel Adams retrospective in Scotland, and the largest ever held in the UK. (David Pollock)