Hi Everyone -
I just returned from a week in San Francisco. One major highlight was a visit t o the "Ansel Adams at 100" exhibit at the SFMOMA.
First, if you're going (and you should), know that it's a popular show, and it's crowded. The line was literally out the door and down the block. I went on a Saturday, but it might less congested during the week. The crowd also makes it a little more difficult to get into a contemplative mood, so get used to the ide a of getting jostled. Be sure to listen to the background chatter from time to time, and you'll pick up snippets of "zone speak". Lots of photographers in the crowd!
Having said all that, it was a great experience. Here's several observations, i n no particular order.......
There's some famous showpieces, but many of the prints were unfamiliar to me. S ome very early images were represented.
There's some examples of the same print done years apart, and it's instructive t o see the changes. The later prints are typically more contrasty. I've heard s everal critics say they prefer the more ethereal renderings. Maybe I'm a Philis tine, but I like the snappier ones.
I couldn't help but notice the wide range of image tone represented. Some are f airly warm, many have an odd green tint, and then there's the more neutral print s. I also noticed at least one that was peeling away from the mount board. We all have bad days, I guess!
He wasn't obsessed with holding details in the shadows if it didn't help the pri nt. Some of the shadows are really black! I had noticed this from reproduction s, but there's nothing like looking at the real thing.
It was fun trying to guess at some of his decision making process. We're so use d to assuming that all of his photos were perfect, but they're not. Many are ma sterful compromises. On one, I noticed an out of focus branch in the corner of the print. No big deal, but he had to decide if it mattered or not, and what to do about it. He either didn't notice it when he exposed the negative or didn't want to further manipulate the plane of focus. I can almost hear the internal chatter about the relative importance of the blurry branch, and how it affects the picture, and the decision to go with it. Emphasize the good, minimize the b ad. A lesson to us all, to be sure.
I think it was David Vestal that called Adams' landscapes "Wagnerian". Well, ma ybe they're a little grand, but nowhere will you find any emotional grandstandin g. Do a comparison after you've finished the exhibit. Walk downstairs see some work by other artists. The quiet intensity of Adams images really contrasts wi th the more "in your face" presentations.
Lastly, what a great city. I had a limited amount of time to play, but I really want to go back some day with an arsenal of cameras. I unabashedly took all th e obligatory tourist shots, and had a great time. If you saw an East-coast tour ist on the Golden Gate hand holding a Pentax 67, that was me!
The exhibit is in SF until the middle of January, and then hits the road for alm ost two years, visiting Chicago, London, Berlin, Los Angeles, and New York. Go if you can!