Two Photographers Weigh in on Ansel Adams

THE magazine | THE magazine - March 27, 2013

"Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer—and often the supreme disappointment"

Ansel Adams, "The Tetons and the Snake River," 1942

Ansel Adams said, “Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer—and often the supreme disappointment.” We asked two landscape photographers to comment.

I don’t relate to this idea in my own experience. For me, working in the landscape, or any other visual context, is about being fully present and mindful; being open to the possibilities that flow through a situation. And to be there when a conjunction of elements presents itself, if only for an instant. There’s a magic in that, when it happens, that has little to do with tests or expectations. I think the sensibility you bring to your art matters more than the “subject.”
—Mark Kane

Kane’s last exhibition was Photographic Truths and Other Illusions at the Santa Fe Community College’s Visual Arts Gallery in 2011. 

The problem with landscape photographs is that everyone has seen “pretty pictures.” And modern cameras and technology make it quite easy to take a very good photograph of a nice scene—landscapes are everywhere. That’s the point: note the use of “pretty,” “good” and “nice.” The real test is to take what everyone sees and turn it into something that makes them see and think about the subject in a way they never would have without your photograph. Sometimes this makes the scene more impressive or grand, sometimes moodier, and sometimes just different. This is what makes a great image of a landscape. The failure to do this can result in two types of disappointment. When someone looks at one of my images and says, “Oh, what a pretty picture,” that probably means that I have failed. It’s like saying “What a cute baby!” The second kind of disappointment is in some ways worse. Sometimes when I take a picture and then process and print it, it does not look as I envisioned it (what I personally saw and felt when I took the picture). The result is wrong—and nothing can be done about that. There is no software to fix simply taking the wrong picture.

—Steven A. Jackson

In 2012, Jackson’s photography was shown at New Concept Gallery, Santa Fe; at the Roswell Fine Arts League’s Annual Juried Art Show; and at the New Mexico Cancer Center, Albuquerque. In 2013, he will show work at New Concept Gallery in May and at the New Mexico Cancer Center in June.