Ansel Adams: PHOTOGRAPHY from the MOUNTAINS to the SEA – Critical Reflection
“Ansel Adams is most arguably America’s most celebrated photographer” – Phillip Prodger, Guest Curator, Peabody Essex Museum
Seeing this quote as I walked through the door of the exhibition dedicated to one of my personal favourite photographers automatically got my senses tingling with excitement knowing that I was in for a ride. In the opening paragraph that followed this quote (written by Phillip Prodger) it was made clear to the viewer that the “PHOTOGRAPHY from the MOUNTAINS to the SEA” exhibition was created around the theme of “water as a photographic subject” and that it “celebrates water in all of its forms”. Whilst travelling round the 11 different categories that determined Ansel Adams work, I saw a deeper insight into his development as a professional photographer through his experiments with sizing and material. The first collection that I saw was merely an introduction to the exhibition to enable the viewer to understand what was next to come. Within this collection, the prints were an assortment of sizes, ranging from 10×8 inches to A3 posters. This dramatic change in size, to me, represented the main aspect of the exhibition, water, and how it changes unexpectedly. It also had an emotional trigger in the sense that it enabled me to understand that throughout the rest of the exhibition, my feelings would go through a variety of changes. In other collections, Ansel Adams had printed his images on silver gelatin of an approximate size of 6×8 inches, which allowed him to add a representation of the texture of his photographic subject. In another collection, there was a set of three oversized prints that had the approximate size of 8×10 feet, which clearly enabled me to stand back and feel as though I was actually in the photograph, giving me a more dynamic and memorable exhibition experience. There was one collection that I thought was more memorable in the way that this collection was curated, and this was entitled “COAST”. These images show a birds eye view of a range of different cliffs found in Cape Cod, Massachusetts and Lands End, San Francisco. Whilst looking at these images, the viewer was encouraged to sit on a bench. This gave me an odd sense as if I were kneeling on the cliff top, looking over the edge to the sea below, meaning that I had a great emotional and physical response to this particular collection. Once I had completed the zigzagged tour of the exhibition hall, I then approached the exit. For me, whilst walking to this door I had an overwhelming sense of upset and disappointment. Not because this exhibition was less than expected, but because the exhibition had actually ended. I came out of that hall, the hall with the wonderful masterpieces of Ansel Adams that hung to the wall, and had an enormous wish that he were still alive today just so that I could meet this great man. In my eyes, Ansel Adams work and influence on the photographic industry cannot simply be compressed down to one exhibition hall; it does not do him justice. He was, and ever should be “America’s most celebrated photographer”.
Twitter: Ansel Adams recent exhibition shows he should be “America’s most celebrated photographer”. An overpowering and magnificent eye opener.