Yesterday, while browsing AA’s The Negative, I re-visited his ever-fascinating account of taking the “Moonrise” photo – from chapter 6, “Natural Light Photography” – and his very first sentence struck me in an odd way like never before.
“I came across this extraordinary scene when returning to Sante Fe from an excursion from the Chama Valley,” he says, before describing his drama-filled moments of setting- up and taking the shot.
AA illustrates his account, as most here know, w/ a final print – only a final print – and nowhere in his account, except rather indirectly, does he suggest how much he manipulated the “reality” of the New Mexican scene to achieve, so movingly, his pre-visualized aim, as seen in the book.
However, if you inspect the two photos below, his manipulation was more than you might think. Much more. (Forum member Cesar Barreto shared this fascinating comparison in a related thread.)
The top photo shows “Moonrise” as a finished print; the bottom one shows “the only straight [contact] print.”
— Top photo’s caption: “Ansel Adams, Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941.
— Bottom photo’s caption: “[Title repeated] To better understand the interpretive challenges of creative photography, the only straight print of Moonrise is on view at the Alinder Gallery.”
Which brings me to my question for you – When AA claimed to have “come across this extraordinary scene,” exactly which scene was he referring to? Did he mean the top photo (the only one that appears in The Negative), or the bottom photo? The final print’s scene (in his mind), or the scene of “reality”?
Either way, do you think his “claim” has the potential to mislead, or be misread?