September 22, 2023


Make Some Fun

Ansel Adams, Construction, and Music

2 min read

Ansel Adams. The Tetons and the Snake River, Grand Teton Nationwide Park, Wyoming. 1942. Picture through Wikipedia, courtesy of Nationwide Archives and Data Administration

Earlier final week, I taught my college students about Ansel Adams’s images. In preparation for our class dialogue, I watched this documentary on Ansel Adams from the Master Photographers series (1980). I discovered whereas watching that Adams had skilled to change into a live performance pianist however finally determined to change into a photographer.

It was fascinating to listen to him talk about images compared to music. In explaining the vary of sunshine and darkish contrasts in his images, he made an fascinating comparability to the piano and its division into octaves:

“It’s just like the piano, you could have 88 keys, you’ll be able to go from the bottom to the best, otherwise you normally work inside a couple of octaves. Oh there have been some magnificent issues, however they had been simply an octave or two” (10:35-10:49).

If Adams likes the construction offered by the piano as a software for making music, then it is sensible to me that he would love the construction offered by the expertise of images and the digicam as a tool. This curiosity in construction additionally extends to how he perceives his photographic pictures as a sort of framework that’s akin to a musical rating. On this identical interview, he mentioned, “I’m responsible of making a cliché which I take advantage of fairly often, as a result of surely the negatives are just like the composer’s rating. The entire data is there. After which the print is the efficiency, see. So that you interpret the rating on the various aesthetic emotional ranges, however by no means far sufficient away to violate the important idea” (13:23-13:48).

Even Adams’s personal musical tastes have a tendency towards these which have construction. In a 1984 interview with Milton Esterow, Adams agreed with how Esterow’s statement of how Adams has a choice for composers with a big construction, equivalent to Beethoven, Bach, Chopin and Scriabin. Adams continued and said, “Sure, there’s some proof of precision and construction, nothing amorphous. I don’t react to Debussy.”

Studying about Adams and his relationship to music has made me consider his black-and-white images in a brand new approach. I’m reminded of the black and white colours which are used for piano keys, or the the black and white used for a printed musical rating. The shiny gloss his images makes me assume if the shine of grand piano or the elegant “live performance black” apparel at a classical efficiency. Even this 1958 short film of Adams playing the piano is in black and white, which enhances his work so properly. So now, although Adams’s best-known images are these which depict the good outdoor, I like excited about how his images also can remind me of one thing metaphysical and intangible, like music, or the indoor areas of a symphonic corridor.

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