Adams often likened the negative to a composer's score and the print to the conductor's performance, and was known to spend as much as a full day on a single print. The musical metaphor seems quite apropos from an artist who gave up a career as a concert pianist to seek out his “translucent unity with the world and sky” and give us the "austere and blazing poetry of the real".
A sampling of quotes:
— "Some photographers take reality... and impose the domination of their own thought and spirit. Others come before reality more tenderly and a photograph to them is an instrument of love and revelation."
— "The only things in my life that compatibly exists with this grand universe are the creative works of the human spirit."
Yosemite Valley, 1942Another perhaps lesser known facet of Adams is his wonderful prose. In February 1932, he wrote this on the spirit of the mountains in the Sierra Club Bulletin:
Mid-afternoon... a brisk wind breathed silver on the willows bordering the Tuolumne and hustled some scattered clouds beyond Kuna Crest. It was the first day of the outing -- you were a little tired and dusty, but quite excited in spite of yourself. You were already aware that contact with fundamental earthy things gave a startling perspective on the high-spun unrealities of modern life. 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. There are some that care not to listen but the disciples are drawn to the high altars with magnetic certainty, knowing that a great Presence hovers over the ranges. You felt all this the very first day, for you were within the portals of the temple. You were conscious of the jubilant lift of the Cathedral range, of the great choral curves of ruddy Dana, of the processional summits of Kuna Crest. You were aware of Sierra sky and stone, and of the emerald splendor of Sierra forests. Yet, at the beginning of your mountain experience, you were not impatient, for the spirit was gently all about you as some rare incense in a Gothic void. Furthermore, you were mindful of the urge of two hundred people toward fulfillment of identical experience -- to enter the wilderness and seek, in the primal patterns of nature, a magical union with beauty.— "There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs."
—"There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer."
Rose on Driftwood
The PBS video embedded below gives us Ansel Adams' philosophy of photography in his own words and those of people closest to him and his work:
Photos, top to bottom: Self portrait / Yosemite Valley 1942 / Rose on Driftwood