Grand and majestic OR small and intimate?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by photo_galleries, Sep 1, 2017.

  1. This thread appears to have devolved from its original premise. Regardless, AA seems a fair exemplar of the grand and majestic to be found in landscapes, though his thinking about photography has much more meat than seems to be credited here. I think the following quote attributed to Ansel Adams is a reasonable perspective on my own attitudes and feelings:

    “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.” – Ansel Adams
    Julie H likes this.
  2. Do they? How so? Would you say the same of the pictures by Toyo Miyatake?
  3. Phil/David, technique is part of any art and craft. But that doesn't mean I can't think of some artists as more technique-oriented than others. Maurizio Pollini is a classical pianist known for his near flawless technique but is often knocked a bit for his interpretations, which seem less personal and passionate than someone like Rudolf Serkin, whose technique doesn't match Pollini's but whose interpretations are much more personal. I love each of them for what they do, and think they approach what they do quite differently. That's all I'm saying about Adams. His technique and printing is what stands out to me as brilliant where others' photographic interpretations appeal to me on a more personal, feeling level. I have no trouble making that sort of distinction. I am well aware there's a diversity of reaction to Adams's work, and fully understand why others might get more, on a personal level, from his photos.

    David, the quote you supplied seems very sincere. I never questioned either his sincerity or his belief in his work. I feel very comfortable not fully sharing his own assessment of his work even though I think there's some truth in it.
  4. As so often happens, a discussion of any photographer's work is burdened by the tastes, preferences, attitudes, experiences, and abilities of those participating in the discussion, what we have previously described as essential context on the part of the viewer. I know from prior threads that my own taste in photographic art diverges significantly from Fred's, and has been informed to a large degree by my own experience and the influence of my grandfather, who was a student of AA's. While we certainly experience some overlap, I come at most photographs in my own way and with my own prejudices, just as does everybody else. I continue to hold that small and intimate and grand and majestic are not mutually exclusive descriptions, but can apply simultaneously to a photograph depending on both the subject and presentation chosen by the photographer, and equally the knowledge and experience, the emotional and intellectual references brought by the viewer. A small, intimate detail can lead the viewer to an impression of grandeur based on associations and implications, just as a large, perhaps even banal landscape can be enervated and made intimate by finely rendered details that speak to a viewer's own experience.

    An emotionally,artistically captured, but technically unsophisticated image can be either effective or offputting, depending on how it is perceived by the viewer, just as a technically perfect image can fail to capture the imagination because it lacks a compelling subject. Continuum and context. I know you all are tired of hearing it, but they are as real and true principles as I can name, at least in regards this subject.
  5. David, I agree that grand and personal aren't mutually exclusive. I have said so several times in this thread. It's not because of the grandness Adams captures that I don't find his work personal. It's because I find an (someone already used this word and I think it's a good adjective) aloofness in his photos, more of a standing back in awe than a breathing in of the feel of what's around him. This is not about what I think of the man, Ansel Adams. It's what I think about what his photos show me. And, again, I fully appreciate that others respond to his work differently.
  6. Agreed and concurred. No argument from me. I was just pointing out and owning this as a reality equally applicable to all of us. I believe I find his photos more evocative and personally meaningful than do you, and for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the amount of time I have spent in so many of the locations he photographed. I also associate their style and subject matter with my grandfather's photography, who was in many ways my mentor. His images have a very personal association for me which they likely do not have for everybody else, which then defines my context and colors my perceptions.
  7. While I agree that we each bring our backgrounds, prejudices, experiences, and abilities to the photos we view, I also think it's valuable discussing the differences in how we view a photograph. My tastes over the years have changed and my appreciation for certain photographers has grown and for certain photographers has waned, in part due to discussions just like these. Our background and prejudices, thankfully, don't insulate us completely and the sharing of ideas about photos and photographers can change our perceptions, or reinforce them.

    Despite our prejudices and experiences, there's still a photo out there. And I think there can be objectivity along with subjectivity in dealing with photos. The objectivity is what allows us to understand each others' views and that objectivity can sometimes be a good foil for our subjective influences. We do have the ability to step back from ourselves to varying degrees, even though we can't do so completely.

    I'm skeptical that the amount of time we've each spent in locations Adams shot accounts for our difference here. It's relatively easy to imagine we've both spent quite a bit of time in those locations and yet have a different appreciation for his photos. Your grandfather's influence and the influence of some of my mentors, it would seem to me, likely has more of an effect, as do many other factors.

    I think it's very tricky to zero in on specific reasons to explain or justify taste. It risks devolving into, "If only you understood it as well as me, you'd like it too." That rarely flies.

    Taste is kind of like faith. Justifying it kind of ruins it. ;-)
  8. Not my point at all. Yes, there are a vast number of reasons why our tastes and evaluations will coincide or overlap. Yet, I have an image in my mind's eye of dawn on the desert, as seen as a youth at ground level and from within the snug confines of my sleeping bag. Shadows of pebbles stretch for yards, and those of Joshua trees for miles. This is a very personal memory, and one which certain images of Death Valley and other places bring to mind. It is this level of personal identification and association of which I speak when I suggest we each can experience an image in a different way than anyone else. It is not exclusive, but rather inclusive of those who might share a specific set of references. In regards majestic versus intimate: My memory is very intimate, while parts of the image in my mind's eye are majestic. An image that tickles that memory, whether the image be majestic or intimate, can engender both intimate and majestic emotions simultaneously. That is my perception, and I only offer it might be apropos to others, or not, as the case may be.

    I know people of small experience who have a hard time achieving associative meaning with images or topics with which they have no familiarity. There are others whose life experience grants them access to myriad interpretations and understandings from a single image or stanza. Then there are the rest of us who live somewhere in between... I like AA's proposal that there are always at least two people in a photograph: The photographer and the viewer.
  9. New
    "Allen, you should learn a bit more about Adams's photographs of the camps before making the usual superficial moral judgements."

    Superficial judgments

    I make no moral judgments Ansell was a man subject to the moiré and patterns/values of his time. I just look at the facts and the photographs.

    Fact his friend a governor of the interment camp asked him to take the photographs. Would he photograph to cast his friend in a bad light? Methinks not. Fact he was a landscape photographer not a documentry photographer. Fact the photographs are superficial without any real feeling or emotional content which is the cornerstone of good documentry photography.

    They remind me of the happy folks photographed in Nazi internment camps...and of course they posed for the camera . A very very bad similarity as there were absolutely no comparison between the two. However, sanitized photographs bring those thought to mind..

    Julie, a friend of my friend.
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2017
  10. He's a landscape photographer, therefore he must be a Nazi. Makes perfect sense.

    (I think Allen's jealous because Ansel's camera is bigger than his.)
  11. "He's a landscape photographer, therefore he must be a Nazi. Makes perfect sense. "Julie

    Yes, he must be a Nazi you are so clever, Julie. Julie when Im reborn i want to be just like you...just cant wait to be a Julie Im praying.

    And, Julie is the chief fairy in in the fairy glen. Chief fairies are very clever but not as clever as bad boys who are just smarter.

    Bu then the chief fairy knows all that.
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2017
  12. Ansell is so wonderful, with such a clever eyes, taking photos of concentration victims for his friend in such a honest real way.

    No, No, NO biased for his friend.

    God forbid.

    Just a thought.
  13. Folks

    Have a problem with truths.
  14. Some really nice photos on this post.

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