A while back there was a post over on Photrio that had been picked at like a boil. I think it got up to something like seventeen pages. The conversation took a bunch of twists and turns, but the basic premise had to do with Ansel Adams and why he’s so special. Or perhaps to put it a better way, why is he so popular with the public at large?
First of all, I think Ansel Adams deserves a lot of the admiration he receives in the photographic community (and probably some of the derision as well). But regardless of whether you like his work or not, he did a lot to promote photography and bring it to the forefront as a legitimate form of art. And on top of that, he spent a lot of time teaching, writing, and generally sharing his vast knowledge of photography with others. After all there is a technical side to photography, and while it may not be as important as the creative side, it is vital nonetheless.
I don’t think that many people would argue against the fact that Ansel Adams mastered the technical side of photography and was more than willing to share that knowledge with anyone who cared to listen. In my mind, that alone should be applauded, whether you’re a Zone System aficionado or not.
What’s Not to Like
But all that is beside the point. The real question is why is Ansel Adams so popular with the general public? In my mind that’s simple. Ansel Adams is easy. There is nothing to dislike about his work. It’s undeniably beautiful. Only Rush Limbaugh could hate a glowing picture of the pristine and grand western landscape as presented by Adams. Who can’t admire the spectacle that is Yosemite or the Sierra Nevada or Denali or a hundred other places Adams has photographed? His photography is gorgeous, and everyone from my 3 year-old son to my dead grandmother can see that. Of course it’s popular. Why wouldn’t it be? After all what’s not to like?
But in a way, his photography is like Miss America. Who can say honestly say that Miss America is not beautiful? You can’t. Just like an Ansel Adams photograph is the standard that defines the beauty that is the American West, Miss America practically defines female physical beauty. Like Moonrise Over Hernandez or Clearing Winter Storm, every Miss America is seemingly perfect. There’s nothing to argue with or object to.Read More