"Buddhist Letter" young '12
"THE MAKING OF 40 PHOTOGRAPHS" by Ansel Adams
Sometimes we overlook great insights and wisdom from masters because they are so famous they have become cliches. Such was the case for me with Ansel Adams. Then I found “The Making of 40 Photographs” by Adams in a pile of used books. The images in the book were classic Adams. While I found the photos and the technical details interesting, it was the margin notes from Adams that I found most insightful. He wrote about what inspired him to make the photos, telling me much about the man and the art he produced.
Once he was hired by the Bank of Hawaii to photograph the islands for a promotional book. Adams ignored the usual tourist destinations, pursuing what he felt was the essence of Hawaii instead. The most famous of those photographs was “Buddhist Grave Markers and Rainbow.” He could sense the heritage of the people when taking the photo. He never did learn what the markings on the stones meant. It did not matter to him. As he later said about art, “I do not understand the language of most operas; I can enjoy the music without being bothered by the words.”
In “Graffiti, Abandoned Military Installations,” Adams strayed away from his usual scenery photos to capture an abstract image on the wall. He felt it represented a summation of life and the effect of time. Put there by one or several artists, coming together to make an image that was both reflective and celebrating the presence of man.
Adams was impacted by the emotions he felt at visiting an abandoned Japanese internment camp at Mount Williamson in California. How the Japanese people found solace in their love of nature, the surrounding mountains and vast views of the place. How they would walk into the surrounding mountains bringing back small stones to make their gardens. The scene he chose to take was a giant field of boulders with the mountain in background.
In “Martha Porter” he talked about how he had passed many suitable scenes for a photograph in Southern Utah. He did not feel all the elements were there he wanted to capture. He ended up finding a pioneer woman on a porch to photograph. He considered her a “found object of art.” One that he could view the photograph over and over again with the experience of the excitement of finding a scene that reflected his feelings of the place.
He always looked for and sought the just right photographic elements. Often passing the familiar over and over again. Waiting for the just right moment to take a photo. He considered such moments to be inspired by experience, the creative mind and the gifts of light/elements in the world.