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QT Luong
14-Sep-2017, 17:26
Kenneth Brower's review of the exhibit Ansel Adams at 100 was very critical (https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2002/07/ansel-adams-at-100/302533/) and his assessment appears quite persuasive, especially since Szarkowski's response to Brower (https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2002/10/letters-to-the-editor/302595/) strikes me as unusually weak.

However, in his autobiography, Ansel Adams describes how he was pleased with Szarkowski's curation of his 1979 exhibit "Ansel Adams and the West", mentioning in particular his approval of Szarkowski's choice of vintage prints - something that Brower acknowleges in his article. If you look at the exhibit (https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/2292), the prints were indeed rather small.

So do you think that Brower's statement that "The photographer would not have been pleased by this new retrospective" is correct?

Peter Collins
14-Sep-2017, 18:11
Well, I have owned (and sold) 3 AA prints 16x20--one of them Moonrise--and I think AA would have selected some larger prints. Some of his subjects--e.g., Half Dome 1928 and similar are monumental, and work well as 20x24 and larger. Just my $0.02.

(I sold them so I could build a house. No regrets. After some years, I would come home from work, walk right past them, and not absorb them. It was time.)

Chester McCheeserton
14-Sep-2017, 21:53
Photographers are often their own worst curators. I agree with Peter above that Adams would have likely selected some larger prints, but No, I don't think that Brower's statement that AA would not have been pleased is correct.

Kenneth Brower seems to want the populist, uncritical view of Adams. Brower confuses the subject of the photograph with the photograph as an object.

When he writes that "I don't think Szarkowski is a good judge of landscape photographs," it makes one cringe a bit.

Sal Santamaura
15-Sep-2017, 08:32
...do you think that Brower's statement that "The photographer would not have been pleased by this new retrospective" is correct?I have no idea, but...


...the prints were indeed rather small...Contrary to 'trends,' the older I get the more I appreciate small prints. So, whether or not Adams would have been pleased, I think the retrospective print sizes appear to be just fine. :)

Randy
15-Sep-2017, 08:52
Contrary to 'trends,' the older I get the more I appreciate small prints.I wonder why that is...I feel the same, and am rapidly approaching 60 years of age. When I was younger I couldn't resist printing as large as I could physically, economically print. Now, I am quite pleased with 4X5 contact prints, even seek out the smaller prints at an exhibit.

Peter Collins
15-Sep-2017, 09:35
I wonder why that is...I feel the same, and am rapidly approaching 60 years of age. When I was younger I couldn't resist printing as large as I could physically, economically print. Now, I am quite pleased with 4X5 contact prints, even seek out the smaller prints at an exhibit.

It's because we are on the shrink side of the human growth process. Bodily, I mean! :rolleyes:

dannirr
15-Sep-2017, 11:44
I have 5 AA prints - including Moonrise, Taos Church and Half Dome - all printed 20x24 or thereabouts. I've had them for a while, yet every time I walk past I still take a look - either a quick glance, and sometimes a bit of a long look. They are all vintage prints that he did very soon after the photographs were made. I like to think those were his best interpretation, although later versions of Moonrise are certainly more dramatic.

Aside, I also have a few Cartier-Bresson prints (he never printed himself, always had someone else do them) - despite having looked at them very often, I still found something new in them from time to time.

Vaughn
15-Sep-2017, 20:20
F*** big prints and those who demand them. Why slap the modern day aesthetics of bed sheet size images over the life work of AA?

My 2 1/4" square platinum prints are small. 11x14 and 16x20 (and 20x24) are large prints. Anything larger than 30x40 are mural prints.

Szarkowski's reply was nice measured and stated, imo.

QT Luong
15-Sep-2017, 22:12
F*** big prints and those who demand them. Why slap the modern day aesthetics of bed sheet size images over the life work of AA?


Maybe because, as clearly argued in the Brower article, AA liked big prints, even if not "bed sheet size" ?

Merg Ross
15-Sep-2017, 22:40
When I hear of Ansel Adams and large prints, I think of his murals I grew up with in the Bay Area banks, in particular the Berkeley branch of the American Trust Company (now Wells Fargo Bank). They were printed by Gabriel Moulin Studio in San Francisco on continuous rolls of sepia toned paper, closely supervised by Ansel. Presented 8x10 feet (yes feet) in size with two or three seamlessly wall mounted strips, they were very impressive for the time, 1950-60.

Ansel loved to go large, and for the most part his subject matter didn't suffer. He was also making his own large silver gelatin prints during these years.

Vaughn
16-Sep-2017, 01:47
Maybe because, as clearly argued in the Brower article, AA liked big prints, even if not "bed sheet size" ?
I disagree that "AA like big prints" (over 'normal' sized prints). He printed big because that is where the money is...and because he could...and it was probably fun. I do not remember seeing any huge prints in his house.

But I am just second-guessing, so could be totally wrong.

SUNdog
16-Sep-2017, 09:19
The link posted in the starting post is not for the exhibition under discussion, but for Ansel Adams and the West in 1979.

I suspect Szarkowski's response wasn't more in depth because Brower's arguments feed into and reinforce the critical stance Szarkowski took for the AA at 100 exhibition.

JP

DHodson
16-Sep-2017, 10:11
Disappointed? Yes, Surprised? No

Electing to explore Mr. Adams in miniature, while maybe of interest to some, is a bit like defining Usain Bolt based on his speed for the 10km. The one consolation is that we'll be remembering Mr. Adams long after others have passed.

Drew Wiley
25-Sep-2017, 19:33
The mural prints were printed VERY different from smaller versions of the same images - softer, warmer, and less glossy. He even recommended this approach in his manuals. Those old negs just didn't hold up at high contrast in big scale.

Jim Noel
26-Sep-2017, 09:29
I disagree that "AA like big prints" (over 'normal' sized prints). He printed big because that is where the money is...and because he could...and it was probably fun. I do not remember seeing any huge prints in his house.

But I am just second-guessing, so could be totally wrong.

I agree with AA's reason for the big prints. I think it is probably the reason most workers print them. There was one immense print in Ansel's home of EL Capitan. I remember it as reaching basically from floor to ceiling.

Jim Galli
26-Sep-2017, 10:28
Does anyone think we're undergoing a natural analog reaction to the trendy giant prints that people are enamored with these days and the cheapening of how much trouble it was to make excellent large prints before epson?

bob carnie
26-Sep-2017, 10:44
I saw some 30 x 40 AA prints a few years back that were magnificent, I am not sure if he printed themselves or one of his assistants, but they were very nice..

Greg Davis
26-Sep-2017, 12:01
Photographers that compete for gallery space with painters will continue to print 30x40 or larger. That trend won't change for a very long time.

bob carnie
26-Sep-2017, 12:05
Photographers that compete for gallery space with painters will continue to print 30x40 or larger. That trend won't change for a very long time.

Good Point

Drew Wiley
27-Sep-2017, 18:03
I think the size issue is overrated. Some compositions work best small, some large, and some in multiple sizes. I love to see small and large images intermixed, and have exhibited that way myself. Once I had a series of my 20x24 Cibas set between ten foot tall paintings by a famous abstract expressionist, on the one side, and tiny impressionist paintings by Winston Churchill on the other side. Might sound odd, but the seemingly eclectic mix worked. At a deeper level, the different genre all had something in common - an emphasis on surface light (my own interest back then was on very subtle two-dimensional rendition of the picture plane, something well matched by the glossy surface of Cibachrome).

QT Luong
30-Sep-2017, 11:09
So far the discussion has been only about size - not an unimportant consideration. What do you think of the fact that Szarkowski chose to omit Monolith from the exhibit, in favor of many obscure images? Both Ansel Adams autobiography and biography (by Alinder) had an entire chapter titled after the photograph, Adams considered it to be his epiphany, and Alinder his most significant photograph.

Greg Davis
30-Sep-2017, 11:21
I, personally, like that lesser known pieces were shown rather than only the "greatest hits" that I can find in any number of Adams calendars every year. Since it is a show about his life work, seeing some of the images he thought are important enough to make, though less popular gives more breadth to displaying his vision.

David Karp
30-Sep-2017, 13:26
It is interesting the AA draws such extreme reactions from others. I remember attending the exhibit in Los Angeles and generally enjoying it. After all, there were photos I had not seen before and there were lots of photos. I do remember that a significant number of them (maybe not a lot of them, but way more than I expected) were not up to the technical standards of excellence I had seen in other AA photographs in museums. This, not just from his very early photos, but from some of the later photos also. I took this to be the result of the curator's desire to include photos we had not seen. In a retrospective like this, I think it was a mistake. Why omit more well-known, but clearly superior photos (superior both technically and aesthetically)? And why not be sure to include examples that illustrate the artists' mastery of their medium? (I once saw a wonderful show at MOMA in NY that included two or three AA photos and many many other photos from a variety of artists. I was shocked at the shoddy craft of some of the photographer's whose work was exhibited. AA was clearly superior in this regard to almost all of the others whose works were shown.)

Perhaps a more valid approach would have been to include more comparisions. For example, instead of omitting Monolith, why not include a contact print of the WP negative along with a later enlargement? A later enlargement would be quite interesting, in that it could have been accompanied by a discussion of how the plate was damaged by fire and how subsequent enlargements were cropped, as well as being printed in AA's preferred-at-the-time more dramatic style. I have seen a contact print of that plate and an enlargement. Both are unique and exciting in their own way. It would have been great to see them side by side. I also agree with Brower that, in a retrospective, this sort of comparison, based on what AA considered his best execution of his vision vis a vis an earlier execution would be quite interesting. Let the viewer decide, not the curator. This is a way in which photography is different than other art forms. I saw a wonderful exhibit on my honeymoon of Picasso's evolution as an artist. His work obviously changed tremendously over his lifetime. The changes were exhibited in new works. A photographer can much more easily revisit early works and re-make them to a certain extent. Adams did this and I don't think it is fair to ignore his choices. The curator can clearly have an opinion and state it. However, to be fair to the artist, the curator should present the artist's work as the artist wanted it to be seen. To present mostly versions that had been superseded in the artist's mind by later interpretations is, perhaps, a misrepresentation.

This discussion reminds me of the Brett Weston retrospective I saw in Santa Barbara. It was amazing, stupendous, overwhelming. The images were the best of his best. Contact prints from 8x10 negatives. Enlargements. It did not matter. The photographs were wonderful. Merg Ross and I had a discussion about this, perhaps off forum. He reminded me that the Santa Barbara exhibit was the best of Weston's best. It was work that few photographers have equaled. A later Brett Weston exhibit, in Pasadena, left me mostly cold. Merg reminded me of the magnitude of the Santa Barbara showing, and that like other photographers, not all of Weston's work was monumental, but due to his fame and importance as an artist lesser works will still be shown. The AA exhibit could have been closer to the Santa Barbara Weston exhibit, but it was not. I think that was due to the curation rather than the ability of the artist.

Kirk Gittings
30-Sep-2017, 21:47
What am I missing here? AA at 100 was an exhibit some 10 years ago. Water under the bridge I'd say. I flew to Chicago to see it and loved it-one of the best AA shows I have seen. The 8x10 contacts were my favorite. I brought some close up reading glasses so I could put my nose up to the print and was not disappointed.

tgtaylor
30-Sep-2017, 23:16
Actually the first exhibition in the series was held in San Francisco from August, 2001 to January, 2002 and ended in New York 2 years later in 2003. Adams was born in 1902.

Thomas

Kirk Gittings
1-Oct-2017, 09:01
Actually the first exhibition in the series was held in San Francisco from August, 2001 to January, 2002 and ended in New York 2 years later in 2003. Adams was born in 1902.

Thomas

Thanks. Even longer ago than I thought.

QT Luong
3-Oct-2017, 12:32
What am I missing here? AA at 100 was an exhibit some 10 years ago. Water under the bridge I'd say.

You are not missing any new developments.

The forum is not like press, topics appear when someone feels like starting a discussion, not necessariy when they are current.

The book is still in print, and I think the issues raised by Brower's comment are still relevant.

I agree with David Karp that the part of the exhibit I enjoyed the most were the comparisons.

Drew Wiley
4-Oct-2017, 17:25
AA probably made far more so-so prints than truly great ones. So did Edward Weston. So do you and I. I tgenerally throw them away unless they serve to remind me to make a better print of the same image later. But the commercial work and compost of famous folk tends to get hoarded by somebody, just in case it has value. The city of LA even contracted with AA as a commercial photographer.