Ansel Adams was born on the 20th February 1902, one of the most famous landscape photographers and environmentalists of the 20th century, with a particular focus on his images of the American West, using black and white photographs. He founded Group f/64, which was a collection of photographers who advocated a method of photography involving the full use of the tonal range. As well as this, he co-developed the Zone System, a method for achieving a final print through technical understanding, resulting in such clarity that became synonymous with his imagery.
As well as photography, Adams was an environmental conservationist, using his work to promote nature, in particular the national parks of the United States. Due to his work on this topic, he was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980 and stands as a powerful reminder of environmental activism to this day.
Adams played a role in establishing some of the most influential educational facilities and magazines in the United States, including the photography departments at the New York Museum of Modern Art and the University of Arizona.
A man committed to the quality of his work and the impact it could have on saving our environment, his quotes truly inspire us to look at the world around us.
1. Photography is more than a medium for factual communication of ideas. It is a creative art.
2. Photography, as a powerful medium of expression and communications, offers an infinite variety of perception, interpretation and execution.
3. A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed.
4. To photograph truthfully and effectively is to see beneath the surfaces and record the qualities of nature and humanity which live or are latent in all things.
5. A true photograph need not be explained, nor can it be contained in words.
6. There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.
7. one sees differently with color photography than black-and-white… in short, visualization must be modified by the specific nature of the equipment and materials being used.
8. In some photographs the essence of light and space dominate; in others, the substance of rock and wood, and the luminous insistence of growing things
9. You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.
10. You don’t take a photograph, you make it.
11. A great photograph is a full expression of what one feels about what is being photographed in the deepest sense and is thereby a true expression of what one feels about life in its entirety.
12. When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.
13. A photograph is usually looked at – seldom looking into.
14. The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.
15. A good photograph is knowing where to stand.
16. To visualize an image (in whole or in part) is to see clearly in the mind prior to exposure, a continuous projection from composing the image through the final print.
17. It is the photographer, not the camera, that is the instrument.
18. Life is your art. An open, aware heart is your camera. A oneness with your world is your film. Your bright eyes and easy smile is your museum.
19. Not everybody trusts paintings but people believe photographs.
20. We must remember that a photograph can hold just as much as we put into it, and no one has ever approached the full possibilities of the medium.
21. With all art expression, when something is seen, it is a vivid experience, sudden, compelling, and inevitable.
22. There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.
23. The negative is comparable to the composer’s score and the print to its performance. Each performance differs in subtle ways.
24. Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.
25. I am sure the next step will be the electronic image, and I hope I shall live to see it. I trust that the creative eye will continue to function, whatever technological innovations may develop.
26. Bad weather makes for good photography.
27. Our lives at times seem a study in contrast… love & hate, birth & death, right & wrong… everything seen in absolutes of black & white. Too often we are not aware that it is the shades of grey that add depth & meaning to the starkness of those extremes.
28. These people live again in print as intensely as when their images were captured on old dry plates of sixty years ago… I am walking in their alleys, standing in their rooms and sheds and workshops, looking in and out of their windows. Any they in turn seem to be aware of me.
29. Sometimes I do get to places just when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.
30. There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.
31. Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer – and often the supreme disappointment.
32. When I’m ready to make a photograph. I think I quite obviously see in my minds eye something that is not literally there in the true meaning of the word. I’m interested in something which is built up from within, rather than just extracted from without.
33. Ask yourself: Does this subject move me to feel, think and dream?
34. In my mind’s eye, I visualize how a particular… sight and feeling will appear on a print. If it excites me, there is a good chance it will make a good photograph. It is an intuitive sense, an ability that comes from a lot of practice.
35. No man has the right to dictate what other men should perceive, create or produce, but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions, and to build confidence in the creative spirit.
36. I never know in advance what I will photograph, … I go out into the world and hope I will come across something that imperatively interests me. I am addicted to the found object. I have no doubt that I will continue to make photographs till my last breath.
37. Photograph not only what you see but also what you feel.
38. Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.
39. It is my intention to present – through the medium of photography – intuitive observations of the natural world which may have meaning to the spectators.
40. Today, we must realize that nature is revealed in the simplest meadow, wood lot, marsh, stream, or tidepool, as well as in the remote grandeur of our parks and wilderness areas.
41. I believe the world is incomprehensibly beautiful – an endless prospect of magic and wonder.
42. No matter how sophisticated you may be, a large granite mountain cannot be denied – it speaks in silence to the very core of your being.
43. The whole world is, to me, very much “alive” – all the little growing things, even the rocks. I can’t look at a swell bit of grass and earth, for instance, without feeling the essential life – the things going on – within them. The same goes for a mountain, or a bit of the ocean, or a magnificent piece of old wood.
44. Both the grand and the intimate aspects of nature can be revealed in the expressive photograph. Both can stir enduring affirmations and discoveries, and can surely help the spectator in his search for identification with the vast world of natural beauty and wonder surrounding him.
45. There are no forms in nature. Nature is a vast, chaotic collection of shapes. You as an artist create configurations out of chaos. You make a formal statement where there was none to begin with. All art is a combination of an external event and an internal event… I make a photograph to give you the equivalent of what I felt. Equivalent is still the best word.
46. It is all very beautiful and magical here—a quality which cannot be described. You have to live it and breathe it, let the sun bake it into you. The skies and land are so enormous, and the detail so precise and exquisite that wherever you are you are isolated in a glowing world between the macro and the micro, where everything is sidewise under you and over you, and the clocks stopped long ago.
47. The only things in my life that compatibly exists with this grand universe are the creative works of the human spirit.
48. I believe in beauty. I believe in stones and water, air and soil, people and their future and their fate.
49. It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.
50. Let us leave a splendid legacy for our children… let us turn to them and say, this you inherit: guard it well, for it is far more precious than money… and once destroyed, nature’s beauty cannot be repurchased at any price.