5. Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite Park: Ansel Adams 1944

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1. Build the Nature-Human Relationship
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1.8 Photographs
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1.8 .5

It would have been churlish to not have included an Ansel Adams in the collection, no matter how popular his photographs are, and how almost cliched their use has become.

There is little I can add to all that has been written about his peerless landscape photography beyond saying that it is the photographic form of Romantic landscape painting, and everything I said about Von Guerard and his genre (Paintings 1.7.2) applies here. Whether you find it more awe-inspiring and affecting because it is constructed from ‘the actual’ via camera and photograph, or via the sketchbook and memory, as in the painting, I will leave up to you.

To examine the picture in greater detail I quote here Matthew Ponsford of CNN when reviewing a new Adams exhibition1: Adams’ ‘Clearing Winter Storm’ is a grandiose view of a Yosemite rock face capped by snow, obscured by parting cloud and penetrated by a rushing waterfall.

‘It includes water in all its forms and speaks to the ideas of a fleeting moment — the sort of ephemeral moment. It is a clearing storm, so that suggests a before and after and a sort of narrative within the picture,’ Simpson says (Phillipa Simpson, Touring Exhibitions Manager, UK National Maritime Museum where an Adams’ exhibition was being launched).

“It’s also a picture which I think looks very muscular and very solid and very geological. It kind of concentrates on these rocky forms, but actually it’s animated by a waterfall and by the dusting of snow and ice across the foreground.

“While many visitors will continue to greet such images with awe, the criticism — which the curator hopes to confront — is also nothing new. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, his human-free landscapes drew scorn for romanticizing a ‘wilderness’ that was already colonized by tourism, and for cropping out man’s influence.

“During this time, prominent French photojournalist Henri Cartier-Bresson complained: ‘The world is going to pieces, and people like Adams … are photographing rocks!’ “

The tediousness of the latter criticisms hardly deserves response, but as they are just as often used today to shut down a love of Nature I will just say: Is there implacable conflict and competition between man and Nature? Need awareness and concern for one lead to neglect and dereliction of the other? How childish and absurd. This is the territory of Killing Nature in the Mind (Articles 1.1.10).

A per my comments on Dombrovskis’ fine work, Ponsford says1: “Today, he is rarely the subject of the intense, approving attention he once was during his lifetime — his endlessly reproduced photographs appearing to have lost the ability to enrapture and surprise viewers”. If this is true, is it a function of overuse, or of a very different time and culture?

 

1 https://edition.cnn.com/2013/03/29/world/europe/ansel-adams-mountains-sea/index.html

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