View Full Version : Ansel Adams At 100. Reviews?
Has anyone purchased or seen in person the book Ansel Adams At 100? If so, can you provide your thoughts or a review?
I spent almost two hours looking at the book (I didn't purchase it eventually). See: http://www.cs.berkeley.edu/~qtluong/photography/lf/books/landscape-bw.html
while i have thoroughly enjoyed several of mr szarkowski's previous books, i just cant imagine that the world needed another book about ansel adams.
If you have most of Adams' other exhibition books (i.e., not merely his technical guides), you'll want this one to complete your collection. If you don't have many of his other books, the $150 might be better divided up among several of the earlier collections and then waiting for this one if/when it's released in paperback.
Especially valuable in the new book are some vintage vs. later print comparisons, which are not available anywhere else; Szarkowski generally prefers the former and explains why. I was pleased to see some lesser-known (and unknown) images, but wish there had been more of AA's abstract/modernist/closeup work and not as many pure landscapes. But the people who buy AA's books and calendars apparently prefer the "Wagnerian" landscapes (Ralph Steiner's phrase) so the publishers understandably emphasized the kind of pictures they know will sell.
The best part of the book, interestingly enough, may be the essay by Szarkowski, perhaps the finest writer on photography of our time (to my mind the only one who comes close to him is Robert Adams; for what it's worth, both are accomplished photographers). Szarkowski has read just about everything ever written by and about Ansel and puts it all into clear perspective, from claims that Adams printed more contrast in later years because his eyesight was failing (not the whole story, he says) to Adams' realization at mid-century that his creative years were behind him. It is the best essay on Adams I've read anywhere.
The printing quality of the book is exceptional, though I'm still partial to the work of Dave Gardner, who printed most of the previous AA/Little Brown books and is still doing the annual AA calendars (including the 2002 "AA at 100" calendar; I haven't been able to compare the reproductions in the calendar to those in the book).
Bottom line: A nice piece and a reasonably fresh centenary assessment, given how overexposed (and some would say overrated) AA is (it would be a wonderful gift for many photographers). I still wish that someone would assemble a more comprehensive and critical overview of hundreds of AA images (ala Amy Conger's heavyweight catalogue of CCP's Weston archive), putting in some of AA's commercial work, his awful portraits, and a detailed review of his career trajectory, workload, and client list. Given the stranglehold that the AA Publishing Rights Trust has on AA's work, however (witness the wretched "AA in Color" book and their refusal to let Jonathan Spaulding reprint any AA photos in his relatively uncritical but not-fully-authorized biography), we're only likely to get the sanitized Adams. Viewed in that constricting light, the "AA at 100" actually manages to break a surprising amount of new ground.
By the way, many Borders stores have the book in stock should you wish to look at it before buying.
I recently purchased the book. Although it is expensive, I think it is worth having for a couple of reasons: First, great care has gone into the reproduction and presentation of the prints. Most of us get to see original Adams prints only in museums for perhaps a few hours every couple of years. (And when I saw the Adams exhibit in Portland, Maine two years ago, the lighting was deliberately dim to help preserve the prints.) For those of us who print large-format black and white landscapes, it is both instructive and inspirational to have good reproductions of Adams's work readily to hand. Second, the sequencing of the images is very interesting. There is some loose grouping by subject. Plates 35 to 45, for example, are photographs of dead trees or details of stumps. Plates 72 to 74 are photographs of Lake McDonald taken from the same camera position, where differences in the water, sky, focal length of the lens used, and the printing, give each image a different feeling. Plates 104-105 and 109-110 show the same negative printed by Adams at different times. The two prints of Mt. McKinley and Wonder Lake, Plates 109-110 are particularly fascinating to contemplate in light of the commentary from John Szarkowski, who writes the introductory essay. Szarkowski not only finds the earlier print superior to the later, he writes as if the later print (made in the late 70's) were actually grotesque: "Why this radiant peak . . . should have been transformed into a dirty snowdrift is a mystery to this viewer." I confess I prefer the later print, but Szarkowski's provocative comments have certainly impelled me to articulate and defend my preference.
In sum, I strongly recommend the book, but do urge you to shop around on line for the best price. Amazon.com had the best price that I could find ($105).
If you're going to purchase the book through amazon.com, by following the link http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0821225154/alargeformatphot/ you'd help support the LF page :-)
Does anybody else take issue with the title of this book?I hate to break it to the author, but Ansel Adams is dead! He did not reach his 100th birthday, and now never will.A book really showing the work of Ansel Adams at 100 would be a very slim, not to say ethereal, volume indeed.
Pete, at least in the US this kind of titling isn't uncommon. There was a very good little book of essays on Weston called "EW 100" published on the 100th anniversary of his birth, and I also know of an "F. Scott Fitzgerald at 100" centennial tribute (like "AA at 100," both of these books were definitely posthumous publications).
The book is available in paperback from the SFMOMA; I recently saw the show and purchased the book while there. The show was well rounded for what Szarkowski set out to do but previous to seeing this show I saw the "In Praise of Nature" show at the George Eastman House and found that to be superior in overall quality not to mention the other fine photographer included in the exhibition.
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