20 Years, Revisited
20 Years, revisited
Greetings and thanks for stopping by my site.
The majority of photos on this site were taken between 1990 and 1994 when no process was left uncrossed, and no Polaroid left untransfered.
Late last year I revisited some of the projects that I shot when I was in school and when I was working professionally. I searched through boxes that were sealed in 1995 and found most of my original negatives, slides, prints, notes, receipts, Polaroids, and everything else I saved from the shoots. It was the first time in 15 years that I looked at the body of work. I’ve become so “detached” from the work over the years that I was able to see everything from a different point of view, and with a much different perspective than I had when I originally shot the images.
I rediscovered shots that didn’t make the cut when I shot them, and reconsidered shots that I had previously showed as “portfolio shots.”
About the same time I watched Marc Silber’s interview with Ansel Adams’ son Michael. First of all, I’m mostly indifferent towards Ansel Adams’ work… his images are beautiful, sure, but I’ve known too many aspiring photographers who got lost in zone systemey technocrutches, and met too many jackasses who placed Adams on a pedestal for the wrong reasons.
After watching this interview, my eyes were opened to Adams the artist, and my misconceptions about Adams the technician we’re dispelled. The interview focuses mainly on the iconic “Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico” photograph.
As Adams quoted Adams, “The negative is the score, and the print is the performance.”.
That kinda blew my mind on a couple of levels.
First, it never occurred to me that Adams would reinterpret his images in a way that might be contrary to his initial previsualization. In Jonathan Green’s 1984 book “American Photography: A Critical History 1945 to Present”, the author criticizes Adams and his dogmatic adherence to the zone system:
“Adams’s work is in the Puritan grain: straight and rigorously conservative. His obsession with technological control also displays another fundamental American trait … an aggressive, acquisitive, inventive preoccupation with engineering and the practical uses of new technology.”
What Green doesn’t take into consideration, and what is explored in the Silber interview – is that Adams revisited his negatives throughout his life, and continually reinterpreted the negatives while he printed them. Adams’ son explained that many of his father’s prints (including “Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico”) became darker and the contrast became greater over the years. Many incorrectly attribute this to Adams age and failing eyesight, but according to Michael Adams, the truth is more revealing. He stated that as Ansel got older his sensibilities changed, he ‘felt’ darker and more ‘dramatic’ and reinterpreted his images accordingly.
This revelation completely changed my opinion of Adams the Artist, and “freed’ me from the misconceptions that held about my own work – that just because a shot was taken 20 years ago, it doesn’t mean that the image can’t be reinterpreted.
Process can be uncrossed, Polaroids can be untransfered.
–April 25, 2010