This afternoon, after my ritual walk, I was so hot that I could hardly think, so I decided to play again a Sierra Club film that I have on DVD about Ansel Adams.
Trying to keep in mind the gist of this thread, and to cut through the while the drone of John Sczarkowski’s commentary, jumping from his voice to others adding their ten cents, it seemed to come over pretty firmly that Adams, far from having the slightest interest in being ‘creative’ was bending over himself in order to try and catch what was in front of him on the several epiphanic moments that affected him most deeply on his hikes and climbs. He was searching to record the literal truth before him.
During the entire run of the film, nothing was mentioned about Zone Systems nor of any other technical trickery or conceit beyond the trend-setting (for him) red filter he almost accidentally decided to use at the end of a shoot up Half Dome, El Capitan or some other rock of disproportionate mass – I forget which (it was a hot afternoon – mine). Odd how often accident seems to play its role (Moonrise – Hernandez?)… kind of fits in with my own theory about landscape photography. However, there were several shots of darkroom work going on, and if the film is to be believed, much shading and burning-in was involved, regardless of any imagined perfection of exposure of negatives! Seems a contradiction lies therein.
What also came across – possibly a crumb of comfort for mere mortals – he was stretched for money right up into his mid-seventies when he met a guy who marketed him and parted the Red Sea.
So, all in all, I conclude that at least one of the icons of our world never seems to have made any claims about creative shooting nor creativity of any form, but certainly paid his dues, working every day of the year except when ill.
It is said that the harder you work the luckier you get.
His early love was music, and after many years of study, his natural talent wasn’t enough to sustain him in the pursuit; a quotation from a letter to his wife-to-be was to the effect that music was wonderful but that the musical world was one built from solid crap. I wonder how he’d have viewed the photographic ‘art’ world of today.