Since I mentioned my processing workshop in a post last Friday, I received tons of heartfelt feedback on Facebook and Instagram. It’s amazing how people around the globe and across my lifespan shared messages of support!
In the first half of the workshop last Saturday, we had a great discussion about reality in photography. Now mind you, I’m kind of a heretic when it comes to reality in photography, especially expressive photography. Over the years, my philosophy has evolved to the point where I just don’t consider that expressive photography is representative of reality. In fact, I would go so far as to argue that expressive photography shouldn’t even attempt to represent reality, but that flies in the face of prevailing attitudes regarding photography as a truth standard. I realize that photography = reality for most people. Of course, this debate goes back to the very beginnings of photography and it will continue for a long time to come.
WhenI returned home after the workshop, a book I had ordered was waiting on my doorstep. The title of the book was “Ansel Adams in Color.” It was published in 1993, about a decade after Adams died and right at the very beginning of the digital revolution in photography. Ansel created more than 3000 color images in his lifetime, yet he struggled with color photography as a form of expressive art. He very rarely, if ever, published prints of his color work. This was at least partly due to the lack of acceptable printing technologies for color images in Ansel’s lifetime. He also struggled with the fact that color adds a dimension of perceived realism to photography that doesn’t exist in monochrome. Thus, he struggled with both the craft and aesthetics of color photography. Since craft and aesthetics were the guiding principles of his art, it is no wonder he didn’t publish or exhibit his color photographs! I found several quotes from Ansel in this book that are particularly germane to reality and photography. I’ll share two. He wrote these as he struggled with the role of color in his own work and in expressive photography in general.
“I believe we should encourage non-real explorations into worlds of color hitherto restricted to painting. Only the technical rigidities and the fear of the unreal have held interpretive color photography to rather narrow paths. It now appears that the horizons are opening for new creative-emotional concepts that can be achieved in the domain of color imagery in the photographic mode.”
As “reality” is out of the question, I can indulge myself with the explorations of the “unreal” color which may or may not have intriguing aesthetic effects. I would not want “post-card” realism, but I would enjoy “enhancements” of the colors which I fear is not possible with conventional materials today…. The scope of control with the electronic image has not been explored, but I feel confident astonishing developments await us in this area.”
He wrote that last quote in 1983, only 8 years after the invention of the digital camera and four years before the invention of Photoshop. That’s amazing to me! For several years I have given a talk about the lessons that Ansel might teach us today about digital photography. I have speculated on the type of photographer Ansel would be in the digital age. These quotes further strengthen my belief that, not only was Ansel a great film photographer, but he would be at the top of the digital game as well!
The second half of my creative processing workshop is this coming Saturday. I’m looking forward to it!
For some reason, I’m in a Low Country state of mind now, so here are three images I’ve collected over the years from that area in the southeast US. I need to get back there some time. It has been way too long!