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Thread: Ansel Adams at 100, Szarkowski and Brower

  1. #1
    Founder QT Luong's Avatar
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    Ansel Adams at 100, Szarkowski and Brower

    Kenneth Brower's review of the exhibit Ansel Adams at 100 was very critical (https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine...at-100/302533/) and his assessment appears quite persuasive, especially since Szarkowski's response to Brower (https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine...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?
    Last edited by QT Luong; 14-Sep-2017 at 18:45.

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    Silver Fox
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    Re: Ansel Adams at 100, Szarkowski and Brower

    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.)
    Peter Collins

    "Growing older is not for sissies." --anon.

  3. #3

    Re: Ansel Adams at 100, Szarkowski and Brower

    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.

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    Re: Ansel Adams at 100, Szarkowski and Brower

    Quote Originally Posted by QT Luong View Post
    ...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...

    Quote Originally Posted by QT Luong View Post
    ...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.

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    Re: Ansel Adams at 100, Szarkowski and Brower

    Quote Originally Posted by Sal Santamaura View Post
    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.
    https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/52893762/bigger4b.jpg

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    Re: Ansel Adams at 100, Szarkowski and Brower

    Quote Originally Posted by Randy View Post
    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!
    Peter Collins

    "Growing older is not for sissies." --anon.

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    Re: Ansel Adams at 100, Szarkowski and Brower

    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.

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    Re: Ansel Adams at 100, Szarkowski and Brower

    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.
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

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    Founder QT Luong's Avatar
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    Re: Ansel Adams at 100, Szarkowski and Brower

    Quote Originally Posted by Vaughn View Post
    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" ?

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    Re: Ansel Adams at 100, Szarkowski and Brower

    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.

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