On Tuesday, March 28th I went with my advanced photography class on a field trip (yes, apparently they do have those in college) to the Arkansas Arts Center to see the Ansel Adams exhibit currently on display. As an aspiring photographer, it was surreal.
We got to the center right when it opened at 10 a.m. and proceeded to the exhibit. There were probably around 30 to 40 prints. And not just reprints but the actual prints. The first image I saw was titled Yosemite from Inspiration Point, Summer and
I was immediately taken aback by the clarity of the image. When people talk about the detail Adams was able to capture in his images, they are underselling it. When people say that even the clearest monitor displaying the most high-resolution image doesn’t do his photographs justice, they aren’t lying. I
could make out details on individual trees on the furthest horizon as if I was actually standing there in real life. But there’s more to the images than the clarity. Everything about them was calculated. It’s been said that if you can see it in the image, Adams wanted you to see it. And if you can’t, he didn’t. Being able to see the work of such a legendary photographic genius was incredible. And to add onto this, some of the photographs were accompanied by notes Adams wrote himself. Right in front of me were an 80-year-old print and an 80-year-old piece of paper that Ansel Adams himself wrote on. It’s still hard to believe that I was able to see that.
I had decided to go on the field trip because I figured it would be silly to pass up the opportunity to see the work of such an iconic, and a personal favorite, photographer. I left with a completely different grasp on what photography can be. If I were to pick one positive of the trip, it would be my renewed sense of passion for the documentation of the beauty this world has to offer, and the dedication it takes to do it right. If I had to pick one negative of the trip, it would be that they didn’t have the actual negatives of any of the photographs, but I may be getting a little greedy with that.
Ansel Adams possessed the unique ability to capture a whole other location, and place you in it. I will never forget what it was like to visit those locations.