Ansel Adams on PBS... : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

WELL... What did you think of the show?

-- ernie gec (, April 21, 2002


It needed to be longer and more in detail.


-- Kevin Kolosky (, April 21, 2002.

I learned a lot about ansel adams the man, which made me appreciate his work even more. I felt like this was just scratching the surface, that there is even more to the story. I thought it was well done.

-- DLoveAdams (, April 21, 2002.

Then you should buy & read Mary Street Alinder's excellent and incisive biography of Adams.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, April 21, 2002.

I found if very moving. I was struck by what a potent human being he was, warts and all.

If I had to sum up my reaction in a few sentences, I'd say, "Your art should reflect who you are as a person. Your best efforts will be work that no one else could possibly do. Everything else will have a hollow ring. Craft is very important but it is only a vehicle".

I plan to watch it again.

-- Kevin Bourque (, April 21, 2002.

Anybody know if it'll be on again at a different time? I was in the lab scanning stuff for an assignment and didn't get to see it. Sounds like something worth watching.

-- David Munson (, April 21, 2002.

The show had the feel to me of a piece of work pushed out quick for a buck by the producer Ric Burns. The camera work (cinematography) was very mediocre. I really do agree that it badly needed more detail - long on metaphor and short on detail. "Smart" of the writer to use the term that Adams "took" photographs. If anyone ever "made" photographs, it was Ansel Adams.

-- John Burnley (, April 21, 2002.

I thought the show was fabulous. Ansel Adams is such an icon with posters and calendars everywhere you look. I think I for one had really taken his work for granted. I was really moved to be reminded how wonderful his work really is and what he did for photograhpy in the context of the time he worked and what was being done at the time. And then all he did to preserve the wild places in America. Bravo. Ed,

-- Ed Candland (, April 21, 2002.

I really enjoyed it. I agree completely with Kevin's summary that it really is an individual thing. Technique will only get you so far -- inspiration, passion, whatever you want to call it I think is ultimately what makes you an artist. That and having someone to support you. Seriously, I found his passion and drive to be both inspiring and intimidating.

David, I checked the PBS website and they don't mention a replay time. I know you can buy it for $20 from the website if so inclined.


-- Jennifer Waak (, April 21, 2002.

For David and others who missed it, according to someone on, "If you get PBS through the DirecTv national channel, it is on Monday night. There are two more showings later that night."

-- Jennifer Waak (, April 21, 2002.

I thoroughly enjoyed learning many things about him as a child that I didnt know before. He was not at all the person I thought he was based on what I knew about him in his later years, when he was still alive.

It was disheartening to realize that if Ansel were a child today, he would almost certainly be diagnosed as having some mental illness, and would probably be heavily medicated.

-- Wayne (, April 21, 2002.

Wayne Just another in a long list of creative people that would have been heavily medicated today and would most likely have never done the work they had. But then that's a big can of worms...

-- Ed Candland (, April 21, 2002.

I thought that it was ok. There was really nothing new offered that wasn't already in Alinder's book, or Adams own books.
That said, I did enjoy it - anything I can do to learn anything about Adams, I will.
I also came away with a very strong sense of wishing I had personally known the man. Having been to Yosemite, and had the privilege of experiencing some of what he experienced was magical in and of itself; knowning the man would have been priceless.
He was a true, rare gem of a human being.

-- Ken Miller (, April 21, 2002.

Liked learning more about Ansel.....Dis-liked the interviewed opinions of Ansels life generally. This guy was a GIANT!!!Their opinions and analysis are very, very small.Kind of a slap in the face to say he wasnt productive later in life.Seems to me he gave his all, all his life ...whatever that form took.Not very well done but better than nothing.

-- Emile de Leon (, April 21, 2002.


I own and have read Mary Street Alinder's Biography, as well as many other works on Ansel. That is why I think the show needed to be much longer for those who may not have the book.


-- Kevin Kolosky (, April 22, 2002.

I too would have liked if it was longer but what do you expect them to make "Ansel The Mini Series"?

-- Ed Candland (, April 22, 2002.

Good show. Not really "for" photographers however, but a biography--- and a successful one---for those two or three people out there who don't shoot LF. While I would be interested in AA's zone system, the use of compensating developers, and the incompatability of the Horowitz stabilizer with the Ferrante Codelite, I think most normal people would find such enlightenment rather tedious. The show was successful at putting a human face on a venerable icon of photography and for that I say "good show!" I agree that its scary to think that a youmg AA would be heavily medicated in todays society.

-- John Kasaian (, April 22, 2002.

I thought it was a great insite into AA the person. However, as fate would have it, AT&T Cable out here in the San Francisco Bay Area had transmission difficulties just after the first hour. So, I missed the entire last half hour of programming. And the show is not slated to run again, at least according to Tivo.


-- Andy Biggs (, April 22, 2002.

"Dis-liked the interviewed opinions of Ansels life generally. Their opinions and analysis are very, very small. Kind of a slap in the face to say he wasnt productive later in life."

Read the books! (Spaulding's and Alinder's biographies). Adams himself basically admitted he had "no more to say" after the early 1950s, so they weren't being harsh when they pointed out that he had run dry by then.

I thought the interviews were very well done, and they basically included the 6 or 7 people alive who know most about Ansel (only missing person was Jim Alinder, who accompanied Ansel on many of his last photo ventures, incl. the last (1982) one that resulted in "Graffiti, Abandoned Military Installation." Jim's alive and well, isn't he?)

And I agree with whomever pointed out that the target audience wasn't serious photographers but rather the general public (the kind of detail those on this forum would like to see would never make it onto anything but "The Large Format Channel").

All in all, I thought it was quite well done.

P.S. I'm guessing that if the cable broadcast broke down in Ansel's hometown of S.F. they'll HAVE to run it again there, no?


-- Terry (, April 22, 2002.

My PBS thought a pledge drive would be more interesting and didn't run it at all.

-- Bob Finley (, April 22, 2002.

I thought it was worth watching. I was surprised, however, that they didn't even mention the Zone System once. They referenced it in a round about way, but you would think that should be in there.

-- Richard Coda (, April 22, 2002.

I thought that it was oriented towards viewers who had never heard of Adams and certainly not towards photographers. There were far too few of his photographs and far too much time lapse (and beautiful) colour images of the mountains. There was no mention (that I remember) of his influence as a teacher, only a sadness that he had grown old.

I fully intended on taping this documentary, but it was superficial to me as a PHOTOGRAPHER and I didn't feel any urge to make that recording as I watched. I think that it adds a bit to our understanding of Ansel Adams - and most of us in LF have been bit HARD by him; but I was hoping for a definitive exploration of his work and life but not necessarily someone’s interpretation of his philosophy.

-- David Grandy (, April 22, 2002.

It was Burn's first run at autobiography. Everything he does is the same - the same sweeping tones, the Wagnerian emphasis and portentousness. Adams had to be more lively and creative than that. Did the sheer walls of Yosemite eventually prevent Adams' ability to recreate himself and his work? I like his graffiti work, he comes back in old age to what his old nemesis, Walker Evans was doing 50 years earlier.

-- Phil Glass (, April 22, 2002.

I thought the show nicely complemented the autobiography and Mary Alinder's biography--which, incidentally, complement each other in some interesting ways as well.

We saw clearly some of what made this man tick, esp. his "driven-ness," his bottom-line valuation of beauty (despite the efforts of one of the commentators to recast his photographic work in terms of external concerns), and (certainly not to be forgotten) his life-long need to make a living extending from the collapse of the family business during his childhood until close to the very end.

Large format cameras were repeatedly in evidence throughout the entire hour and a half. From the foregoing posts, I would guess that most of the PBS affiliates, if not every last one, carried the show. The local Pittsburgh sunday television log put the picture of Ansel with camera and tripod in the High Sierra on the front cover with a feature story inside. We LF photographers are very fortunate that our art & craft is represented, and in such a positive and inspiring way, by the achievements of this great man. Let's hope that some of the viewers will be moved to look into LF photography themselves.

-- Nicholas F. Jones (, April 22, 2002.

I thought it was good on a general interest level, but I wish they went more into the art/craft per se rather than the politics and personal history (not that you can really separate the two). I found the color time lapse sequences to be neat, but I wanted to see more of his work -- and more "behind the scenes" of his photos.

-- Chris Jordan (Boston) (, April 22, 2002.

I enjoyed the first half of the show. Many things I didn't know about his life. Interesting and probably a good hint at understand his artistic sensitivity. Too bad our local cable lost the signal after half an hour. Does somebody know of any rebroadcast time in the SF East Bay area.

-- Georges Pelpel (, April 22, 2002.

For the most part, I liked it. One thing that showed through was that Adams truly loved what he was doing. Today though, he would be declared hyperactive or "attention deficient" and would be drugged (enforced mediocrity?).

-- Steve Gangi (, April 22, 2002.

I enjoyed it alot.This was a biographical "sketch",designed for a general audience.I thought it did well at this.It showed the man,his art & his impact on the world.What more could one want in an hour & a half TV program?

-- Edsel Adams (, April 22, 2002.

The old man made all that money,but could never afford any color film!

-- F.Stop Fitzgerald (, April 22, 2002.

While watching this program, and listening to what his son had to say (in direct conflict with the narration), we can thank the Mrs. for allowing him to give us his photographs. At least in the early stages of his career.
I wonder how many "masters" could have been, given the same support.

-- Matt O. (, April 22, 2002.

Well the above comments have covered many of the bases. I loved it. Because Ansel was a hero of mine when I was a young teenager and I have put off serious large format photography until now in my later forties,the show moved me emotionally and I found myself quite teary. It also got me very charged up and I am inspired to perspire more at this wonderful medium before I too become infirm and pass on. How wonderful to have a hero to draw inspiration from!


-- Scott Jones (, April 22, 2002.

andy: it is scheduled to run on kqed again on suday at 1pm.

-- jesse (, April 22, 2002.

As far as I can tell, KQED is out of California. No help to me here in upstate NY. Any advice on braodcasts over here? Is this documentary better than the 1981 one?

-- Joe Freeman (, April 22, 2002.

I couldn't decide whether the closing commentary about the underlying patriotism of Adams' work was an accurate depiction of how he felt, or just an attempt to put a post-9/11 spin on his biography. It seemed to directly contradict his response to the criticism during the depression and the dustbowl, in which he seemed to take the position that his subject matter transcended the social and political world. Does anyone who has read the biographies have any insight into this apparent contradiction?


-- Joe Buechler (, April 23, 2002.

Adams considered himself a patriot in that he loved the American land and hated the people who would destroy for temporary financial gain (i.e., "conservatives" like Ronald Reagan and James Watt). His work at the Manzanera concentration camp for Americans of Japanese ancestry was also an expression of his brand of patriotism. Despite the loud protests of Ann Coulter and others of her pea minded ilk, it is certainly possible (maybe even necessary) to be an American patriot, a conservationist, and to be politically liberal minded all atthe same times. to rephrase Walt Whitman;"We contain Multitudes."

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, April 23, 2002.

Yes, it is easy to be a conservationist and a liberal when you already have a house on the ocean next to protected lands as well as a photolab/darkroom/ business in a national park.

-- Eric williams (, April 23, 2002.

To counter one of the earlier posts, to be a Conservative does not mean someone who wants to destroy the world or bow down to big business. It really means to be cautious about changing things and making laws willy-nilly, to think carefully about the impact of one's actions. Unfortunately, our current crop of politicians in the USA have given conservatives a bad name.

-- Steve Gangi (, April 23, 2002.

Conservationist and Conservative are not synonyms, my friend. If you read the post to which you refer, it quite clearly says "conservationist".
And if you boys have nothing better to do than to toss political bull, might I suggest a Democratic Party-based chat room where you can be alone?

-- Matt O. (, April 24, 2002.

Excuse my outburst. But it seems the expression of political views here has become too common. All it accomplishes it the promotion of off-topic arguments.
Personally, I find it insulting when someone says -

- "it is certainly possible (maybe even necessary) to be an American patriot, a conservationist, and to be politically liberal minded all at the same times. "
The myth promoted by such pious persons as this, is that you cannot truly be a conservationist (read - one who cares about the environment, and all that is good) if you are not of a politically liberal bent (translation = a Social Democrat/Clinton/Gore/and all who came before- devotee).
Like-minded liberals have given us the politically correct dictionary, and stress the folly in labeling or categorizing people, yet it is the bread and butter of their political weaponry.

As the previous poster stated, being politically conservative does not mean being non-conservationist.

-- Matt O. (, April 24, 2002.

This is all very interesting (actually, not), but it doesn't answer my question, which was: what was Ansel Adams' attitude about the relationship between art and politics?

The PBS documentary seemed to want to have it both ways. If, during the depression, Adams defended his landscape work by saying that documenting the social catastrophe, as Cartier-Bresson was doing and advocating, was equivalent to propaganda, then how is that reconciled with the closing commentary about American flags being virtually superimposed on all of Adams' landscapes?

Was this a contradiction in the TV show, or was it a contradiction in Adams' character?

-- Joe Buechler (, April 24, 2002.

One of the co-producers was the Sierra Club, so I have to believe that some of their rhetoric would come through whether true to Ansel Adams' belief system or not.


-- Jennifer Waak (, April 24, 2002.


Mary Street Alinder's biography on Ansel Adams would probably answer most of your questions. The book is interesting to read after reading Ansel's autobiography. Eric Williams

-- Eric Williams (, April 24, 2002.

I never said that being politically conservative was in opposition to be a conservationist. That is your reading of my post, but it is wrong. James Watt record is a public record of reckless disregard for anything that stood in the way of his lining hios ppockets or those of his friends; he eventually did prison time for this. There are muddled headed politicians of all stripes. There are also politicians of boththe liberal and conservative stripe who are all for shoving their values down everyone else's throats and for burdening us all with goverment bloat (For example; President George W. Bush is increasing the the size of the Federal Goverment at a pace that would make President Clinton's and President Reagan's heads spin right off their shoulders.)

It is also a provable fact that those who were radicals in their youth, even while remaining faithful to those values are, deemed as being to moderate by successive waves of flag bearers. This happens on the right and on the left. BAttles once won are oft taken fro granted. To a large degree this is what happened with Ansel Adams position in the conservation movement.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, April 25, 2002.

Joe asked about the relation between art and politics for Ansel Adams. I was just in Walden's, picked up the Autobiography, opened at random to p. 287, and read the following:

"I am naive enough to believe that art has a definite relation to what may be called beauty, rather than being limited to the fashionable or political."

-- Nicholas F. Jones (, April 27, 2002.

Wasn't too bad. I'm glad they mentioned some of the 'human' aspects of him.

I agree with the comment about the cinemotography. Sems they had a helicopter fetish.

-- John Flavell (, April 28, 2002.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ