Even Ansel Adams Had a Blind Spot
Andy Romanoff

Fantastic piece. In my teens in the 80’s I knew a woman teaching Photography in Santa Cruz Ca. who new Adams fairly well. She was the first photographer contemporary to Adams to begin to chip away for me at the myth of Ansel Adams as “THE” great American Photographer. All these decades later, I wish I could remember her name as well as I remember her face.

I grew up on Adams’ 3 big books “The Camera”, “The Negative”, and “The Print” as if it was photographic advice handed down on engraved stone tablets or something. When I asked her about those books, she let out quite the laugh and said that for all Adams’ talk about the “perfect negative,” that not even he believed it and that the books themselves were more Adams propaganda designed to keep sales of calendars and postcards up and less actually solid photography lessons.

The upside now is that we’ve moved beyond the “Adams” era with gazillions of apps (never mind Photoshop and Gimp) attached to relatively sophisticated little cameras and people really love what amounts to neo-pictorialism.

Back in the wee 90’s a pro-printer and designer friend of mine said of the arrival of Photoshop, “And now the world will be filled with terrible art and design.” I asked why, being an overly-enthusiastic young typesetter and designer. He replied, “For the first time the most advanced tools in the industry can be accessed at relatively low cost by anyone whether they have the chops or not.”

Cell-phone cameras and one-touch filter apps are to modern pictorialism what Photoshop was to graphic design. The upside, as we all know is that the tools are also in the hands of the most talented artists on earth. We’ll just have to sift through a lot more garbage to find them!

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