Ansel Adams On Pre-Visualization & Photographic Education
Ansel Adams was a luminary in photography. His landscape work entertains a global audience, and even till this day, his black and whites are considered some of the best photos taken of Yosemite National Park. Needless to say, photographers pick a pen and notepad every time there’s an opportunity to learn from his work, as he is somewhat a father to landscape portraiture as we know it, and his work with the zone system is far reaching in almost every genre.
In the video below, Ansel’s son, Michael, gives a tour of his home, revealing some interesting facts about Ansel; what he was like, and in particular, the workflow of his father.
Ansel believed in a technique he called previsualization. Although he may not be the creator of this, Ansel definitely preached it in his workshops and books, stating that “the term [pre]visualization refers to the entire emotional-mental process of creating a photograph, and as such, is one of the most important concepts in photography”. A great photograph that encompasses this is, Cleary Winter Storm:
[REWIND: A PEEK INSIDE AN ANSEL ADAMS WORKSHOP & EXAMPLES OF HIS 35MM WORK AND PORTRAITURE] ANSEL’S SECRET TO SUCCESS
Ansel was extremely passionate about imparting what he learned in photography to the next generation, and Ansel created his original photography workshop in 1940. Eventually, the program became so popular that it became two back-to-back workshops, each a week long in Yosemite, and many have attributed Ansel as the first to start such a thing as a photographer. Through his sheer need to give back to the community and teach them about an art form that he felt so desperately to share, he soon became known for his work all around the world, not only with consumers but with content creators as well.
Ansel shot dramatically; rarely were his pictures as one would see it on location. Rather, he shot in a way where, “it’s not what you see, it’s what you want me to see”. That is to say, what he previsualized was a lot of times different than what the scene gave him -and he didn’t let that stop him from manifesting his imagination.
This unique style of shooting is what became his signature, along with large-format cameras that ensured sharpness in his landscape photos.
HIS COMMERICAL WORK
Although Ansel’s black and white work of Yosemite continue to be his most pronounced, he also shot in color and commercially. In the video, Michael states that subways in New York would have pictures such as the one below, by Kodak, which were taken by Ansel:
Ansel’s workshops continue today, and while the programs might be quite different, they stand as a legacy of what Ansel felt was his duty as a photographer. So many years later, his work is still revered.
What do you guys think of Ansel? Do you agree that it’s an artists duty to give back to their art? Let us know in the comments below.