Today we traveled with a friend to Cooperstown to go to the Fenimore Art Museum. We were going to one of their "Food for Thought" lectures which we have attended and enjoyed in the past. Today's topic was the early works of Ansel Adams.
I was very surprised at the difference between the early and his later more well-known photographs. Or more well-known to me. This exhibit showed Adams' growth over his life and that was the most interesting thing of all. His first photographs are admired, but many left me unmoved. His subject was the great outdoors even early on, but the drama I think of when the subject of his work comes up was rarely there. Instead, I saw the influence of Japanese woodcuts in some of his compositions (those I liked); they influenced many artists of that time period. I learned of his devotion to getting just the right light, waiting for the more dramatic clouds, and his desire to convey what he was feeling.
Some of the facts of Adams' life struck me as intriguing. He was born in 1902 in San Francisco, was frequently ill, and didn't do well in school. In fact, he left school after finishing 8th grade. He hoped to be a great pianist but had to realize he didn't have what it took there either. So what impressed me is despite those "failures" he applied himself thoroughly to the art of photography including all the chemistry and math required and was very, very successful.But to me, many of the photos I saw today did not strike a responsive chord. Nothing unusual in that - no one is going to love everything they see in an art show. Nor is it surprising that I love his later work when he manipulated the development of his photos to get what his vision demanded. What is surprising to me was how much the fact that even an artist as incredible as Ansel Adams needed time to develop, even his work changed over time, and even an artist of his stature had some clinkers in his work.