søndag den 25. marts 2012

Ansel Adams: Classic Images

I started my collection of photograpic books about 3-4 years ago. I basically have books in three categories:

  1. Books about - and sometimes by - a single photographer
  2. Books that are collections of photographs by different photographers
  3. Books about understanding or about taking photographs
The first book I will write a little about is "Classic Images" by Ansel Adams.
This book is the catalog of an exhibition that also visited Copenhagen. Unfortunately I never my self got around to visit the exhibition, but I got the book as a gift from a friend that did.

If you are just the least interested in photographs you of course know Ansel Adams - many of his photographs have been iconic for more than three quarters of a century. When I visited New York for the first time some 25 years ago I bought a large poster with the same "Moon and Half Dome" that is on the cover of this book - it still makes me mad to remember how the poster was badly curled by a porter at the hotel, so I never got it on my wall.

Adams is mostly know for his majestic pictures from the US national parks in the first half of the previous century, and then of cause for his invention of the zone system.

Most of his pictures has an immediate beauty and drama that makes you want to travel to the US and visit the parks right away. The book has a great introductory essay, and as it describes, the feeling was something that Adams was very aware about; the reason was of cause that he him self loved the parks. For me though the most interesting about his pictures is the fantastic drama combined with usually a very simple composition. This drama and the simple composition is actually more interesting in some of his pictures that are not from the parks. It is not hard to understand, and if you like taking photographs it will make you want to mimic some of that drama. Not that easy to do though.

You have probably only heard about the zone system, if you are interested in black and white photographs. A very, very simplified description of the system is, that a photographic print should contain an equal amount of the very darkest tones, of the very lightest tones, and of all the zones of gray tones in between. This technique it part of the reason of the great drama of Adams photographs, and for many it was a guiding technique to use in the dark room when printing black and white photos.
It can be used with color photographs, and I my self invested in the LightZone program some years ago. It is build around editing with focus on the 11 zones. It was very interesting and invited to a new and different view of you photographs. It was also kind of frustrating and my conclusion some 4-5 years ago was that the zone system was not for me and probably not very rewarding for that many color photographs. I think that most photographers agreed, and despise initial good reviews the company that made LightZone eventually folded.

The book is hard bound and of quite good print quality. You really can see the zones although the blacks could be blacker. If anything the book would improve if printed in a larger format.
But with the book in hand you will immediately immerse yourself in all the great and stunning photographs. This is what a good photo book is about!

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