Ansel Adams (1902-84)
I have long been an admirer of Ansel Adams who was an American landscape photographer. His photographs are sharp due to the narrow aperture used and are in black and white. He belonged to the F64 group – this group was dedicated to an ‘intense and detailed scrutiny’ of the world (Clarke1997:174) and there was an emphasis on technical ability. F64 refers to the narrowest aperture possible on their large cameras which gave them the maximum depth of field possible.
“I hope that my work will encourage self-expression in others and stimulate the search for beauty and creative excitement in the great world around us”
or as Ingledew (2013:58) states he saw the landscape as ‘paradise’. He used a zone system which gave the largest amount of information possible about each scene through the maximum gradation of grey values in a negative.
He developed into a photographer who wanted ‘straight’ photography which did not appear to be manipulated in terms of clarity or content, that is he wanted it to be true to nature.
He loved nature and took a huge number of photos in Yosemite National Park. Badger (2007:134) asserts that Adams did not allow any contemporary features to encroach on his landscapes and that they were ‘shamelessly romantic’.
Clarke states that Adams was concerned with unity and form – he evidences this with an image of a picket fence which is sharp in every detail (Clarke 1997:173) but also has turned something every day into something different and special through the use of light and contrast. He was interested in the art of photography (Jeffrey 2011:274).
Adams had a real interest in ecology and this also shaped in pursuit of photography. He was concerned about the encroachment of the urban landscape. Apart from his large scenic vistas he was also able to photograph smaller details eg. His Tree shadow on rock in Yosemite (Jeffrey 2011:280). A Google search also provides images of leaves – sometimes on top of another bush but these are always pin sharp along with their backgrounds.
Adams, A. (Unknown). The Adams Ansell Gallery At http://anseladams.com/ (Accessed on 3 December 2016).
Clarke, G. (1997). The Photograph. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Jeffrey, I. (2011). How to Read a Photograph. London: Thames & Hudson
Fay Godwin (1931-2005)
Turning to a photographer closer to home Godwin was based in the British Isles. Initially like Ansel Adams she worked in black and white but some of her later photography involved colour. Another similarity was that she was concerned about the ecological crisis in the UK. She in was involved in the Ramblers Association and their fight for public access. Her most famous work is the book Land (cited online Clark 2005). She again uses depth of field to show her landscapes. While many of Ansel Adams images show expansive vistas Godwin’s photos suggest restricted space and the encroachment of man on the environment sometimes with modern elements in the photo e.g. pylons (Clark 2005) but in other photos there are traces of past cultures – for example her photo of Stonehenge (Coursebook: 2014) shows the stone pillars of Stonehenge bound by a wire mesh fence. Clarke (1997) indicates that her portrayal of wild and desolate places tends to remind the British of a previous era different from the current urban perspective. He states that like Adams there is a romantic element to the images but Godwin herself did not see her pictures as being romantic – ‘it sounds slushy… I’m a documentary photographer, my work is about reality…’ Godwin(unknown year). In the same interview Godwin said she also likes to leave things to the imagination of the viewer as she believes the ‘viewer must bring their own view to the photograph’.
Her philosophy to photography is further captured in this quote:
‘I don’t get wrapped up in technique and the like,’ she said. ‘I have a simple rule and that is to spend as much time in the location as possible. You can’t expect to take a definitive image in half an hour. It takes days, often years. And in fact I don’t believe there is such a thing as a definitive picture of something. The land is a living, breathing thing and light changes its character every second of every day. That’s why I love it so much.’
Clarke, G. (1997). The Photograph. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Clark, D.J. (2005) Fay Godwin Biography. http://www.djclark.com/godwin/bio.html. (Accessed 4 December 2016).
Clark, D.J.(2005) Landmarks Book. http://www.djclark.com/godwin/landmarks/im02/index.html. (Accessed 4 December 2016).
Godwin, F. (Unknown). Fay Godwin 1931-2005 – Iconic Photographer. http://www.uklandscape.net/interviews/int%20godwinF.html (Accessed 4 December 2016).
Godwin, F. (2004) Fay’s Interview. http://www.amateurphotographer.co.uk/technique/fay-godwin-1931-2005-iconic-photographer-18907. (Accessed 4 December 2016).
While on the surface Cosci’s photos are very different from Adams and Godwin in that he uses a shallow depth of field and in the particular series Panem et Circenses, like Godwin he is making a political statement. In this case it is about how coporate power imposes itself on the urban landscape or in his words:
“With my photographs I would like to insinuate a subtle sense of violence in our deeply hierarchical society. I am interested in the point of view of the loser, the marginalised.”
In an interview with Kevin Bryne (Cosci, 2016) he talks about this particular series and how he relates it to the political scene of the time with Tony Blair in power who commissioned the area of the Millenium Dome and how it was empty at a time when billions were also being spent on the Iraq War.
Like Godwin he believes that photos should be left for the viewer to interpret.
Cosci, G. (2006) Gianluca Cosci Statement. http://www.gianlucacosci.com/page17.htm ( Accessed 4 December 2016)
Cosci, G. (2016). Gianluca Cosci Interviews. http://www.gianlucacosci.com/page18.htm (Accessed 4 December 2016)
Do your own research into some of the photographers mentioned in this project (see above). Look back at your personal archive of photography and try to find a photograph that could be used to illustrate one of the aesthetic codes discussed in Project 2. Whether or not you had a similar idea when you took the photograph isn’t important; find a photo with a depth of field that ‘fits’ the code you’ve selected. The ability of photographs to adapt to a range of usages is something we’ll return to later in the course.
Add the shot to your learning log and include a short caption describing how you’ve re-imagined your photograph.
This is a photo I took in October 2014 with an aperture of f8 thus giving a deep depth of field to the photo. At the time it was part of a series of photos I took at a place called St Michaels Isle on the Isle of Man and was probably done without any particular purpose in mind. On re-looking at this photo to me it reminds me of Fay Goodwin’s work and the stamp of man on the landscape – an older style in the foreground but with the urban houses in the background encroaching up towards the hill.