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Housatonic Community College
900 Lafayette Blvd., Bridgeport, CT 06604

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Robbin Zella, Director,
203-332-5052.

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ANSEL ADAMS: Classic Images

Dogwood, Yosemite National Park, California, 1938
To learn more about this photograph see the information below. To see a larger view of this image as an Acrobat Reader PDF file, click on the image...

Dogwood, Yosemite National Park, California, 1938 by Ansel Adams

This image is copyrighted by The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust and cannot be printed or reproduced in any way. The use of the photograph is limited to viewing in the context of this web site.

 

Dogwood, Yosemite National Park, California, 1938
Plate 12 in Ansel Adams - Classic Images

Sources: Ansel Adams- An Autobiography; and Ansel Adams - Classic Images, and Examples - The Making of 40 Photographs by Ansel Adams, p 113 (on close-ups in general). Please see Bibliography.


A. Why did Adams take close-ups of nature?
B. Does the poet Whitman share Adams' love of details?
C. Were his close-ups appreciated by others?
D. Is the subject dominant in photography?
E. What's the difference between taking close-ups in the studio or in nature?
F. Related links in this site


A. Why did Adams take close-ups of nature?
Adams may be most well-known for his long-distance shots, but he was also fascinated with turning his camera to the details in nature. The creative photographers of the early twentieth century were known for close-up shots and he followed suit. He wrote poetically in his autobiography, "One can never assert the superiority ... of torrents swollen by the floods of spring against the quiescent scintillations of an autumn stream."
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B. Does the poet Whitman share Adams' love of details?
Adams quoted an American poet who shared his tendency to look for beauty in small and unassuming places as well as in the grand and dramatic.

"These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distant and in its place."
From "Miracles," by Walt Whitman
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C. Were his close-ups appreciated by others?
While he himself found "subtle beauty in quiet, simple things," it was typical of "modern conceit to demand the maximum dimension." He believed that people in Asia involved with aesthetics "would never question the exquisite charm of those pale threads of water patterned on shining stone," but that Americans' preference for the "theatrical" limits their appreciation of the beauty in small details.

Adams was disturbed by this attitude even among some close acquaintances. They could see a "grand vision in a photograph of a mountain", for instance, but not in fragments or details of nature. Adams says that to them, "A close-up composition of a pinecone" was "simply not as important as a whole tree."
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D. Is the subject dominant in photography?
Adams conceded that for most people the subject matter is the dominant consideration in any photograph. The successful transmission of more sophisticated creative concepts "depends upon the sensitivity of the viewer." A photograph begins to lose some of its illusion of realism when taken in black and white because the reality around us is in color. The more the photographer focuses on the beauty of the light, texture, shape, value and other formal elements, the less the image is tied to the reality of the subject.
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E. What's the difference between taking close-ups in the studio or in nature?
Adams wrote in Examples that a composition that is arranged in the studio is "contrived" and is "a synthetic creation in that it involves putting together elements to make an argreeable arrangement." On the other hand, a composition from the external world, is "created by an analytic process in that we select and manage the elements of the photograph in the existing surround."
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F. Related links in this site

Exhibit Home | Gallery | About Ansel Adams | About Photography | Lesson Plans & Activities | Student Projects | Resources | Programs & Tours | HMA Home

Housatonic Museum of Art
Housatonic Community College
900 Lafayette Blvd.
Bridgeport, CT 06604
For information call Robbin Zella, Director, 203-332-5052