Bowling with Ansel Adams

Blogger or novelist,  columnist or poet, anyone who writes consistently knows the experience.  After hours or days of steadily increasing pressure, a dam breaks. Encouraged by the warmth of reflection, a jam of frozen thought gives way and words begin to flow, irrepressible syllables that splash and tumble over one another as they swirl away to unexpected conclusions.  Images rise into consciousness, yeasty and pliant as freshly homemade bread.  Sentences take on the burnished glow of parking lot pennies. Impatient phrases nudge against the resistant mind, begging for attention.  

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining.  Show me the glint of light on broken glass”, says Chekhov.   And now and then, we do.  Often we’re unable to explain how or why it happens ~ some lines do seem to “write themselves” ~ but however strange or inexplicable the experience, there’s no question that it’s real.

Recently, one of my own readers graciously confirmed that reality in a comment, here: 

There’s a thrill in reading good stuff, in finding a word, a line, a phrase that resonates. And there’s magic when a writer pulls a certain something together, maybe even only subconsciously.  Here’s where you got me: “…when a fault line tightened and Port au Prince tripped, flying off into the chaos of history.” Oh, that’s a diamond line amidst many other precious jewels in this piece.

In response, I suggested a possible truth:

…that those “diamond lines” are mined as much as created, dug out from the subconscious and suddenly spotted, just lying there. Sometimes they don’t even need to be washed up or faceted ~ they simply shine. Finding one is a terrific experience, and probably part of the reason that myths and muse-ish legends about the writing process have emerged. There’s a good bit of mystery at play…

Of course not all lines are diamonds. Sometimes they’re only rhinestones, or tumbled granite, or even bits of gravel.  We may sense a flicker of brilliance, catch a glint of Chekov’s light, but most of us spend the bulk of our time sifting the alluvial sands, hoping the right combination of luck and persistance will bring us another gem.

When it comes to artists, particularly those held up as masters of their craft, we tend to see only the diamonds.  While I’ve never been to Yosemite, if anyone says “Half Dome” or “El Capitan” I see those places as clearly as if I were standing in their midst, and I see them because of Ansel Adams.  What I “see”, of course, are his photographs: perfect, iconic images that distill the essence of place and re-present it to us as an unspeakable gift.

 El Capitan in Winter

 

Moon and Half Dome

Even when I’ve traveled in places that Adams chose to record with his camera – Glacier Bay, the Sonoma Hills, Marin and the Golden Gate headlands – his photographs tear at my heart, making me regret I saw so little of the world I explored.

Leaf, Glacier Bay 

What I hadn’t understood until quite recently is that Adams’ work wasn’t limited to Half Dome and snowscapes.  Browsing Gerard Van der Leun’s fine American Digest, I noticed Adams’ name in the archives and decided to have a look. I was astonished by what I found.  Mr. Van der Leun’s words could have been my own:

I don’t normally associate Ansel Adams with ironic snapshots of parking lots or small format urban photography at all. Like you, a photograph by Adams means the classic evocation of the great American wilderness. It never crossed my mind that he had photographed any of the cities of men, much less Los Angeles. But there it was. Maybe, I thought, there were more.

Indeed there were.  As detailed in Van der Leun’s essay, Ansel Adams’ Lost Los Angeles Found, Adams had been on assignment to Fortune Magazine, providing images for a March, 1941 story on air power entitled City of the Angels: The U.S. breeds its air power in the fabulous empire of oomph.

Some photographs and negatives from that time found their way to the Los Angeles Public Library, where they can be accessed through a search of the photo collection. What’s striking about the photographs is how very ordinary they are in subject matter.  Billboards, hot dog stands, newshawkers, bowling tournaments ~ Adams was photographing a city that seems to have as much in common with Indianapolis or Wichita as with the Los Angeles of today.

That the photographs included in the Fortune spread weren’t particularly compelling is no surprise. As for the photos discovered in the Los Angeles library by Van der Leun, some were utterly pedestrian.  Nevertheless, because of Adams’ work, Ralph’s grocery in Westwood remains a part of the historical record, as does the slightly ironic, knowing gaze of the news guy at the corner. 

Seen in the context of Adams’ completed life, the Los Angeles portfolio suggests certain realities. No one comes to artistic maturity in a day.  However significant an individual’s achievements, the needs of life and the compulsions of art live in continual tension.  Most remarkably, under the right circumstances even the photographs of Ansel Adams could be mistaken for our own collections of family snapshots, still piled in shoeboxes in the back of a bedroom closet, waiting to be sorted.

 

Bowling Doubles

Of all the treasures contained in Adams’ Los Angeles photos, my personal favorite is this double exposure, part of a bowling alley series. If I were a photographer, too much gazing at Moon and Half Dome or El Capitan in Winter could freeze me in my tracks. On the other hand, this little gem is comforting, almost encouraging. “Look,” it seems to say. “Even the best fall prey to bad judgement, poor vision, wrong decisions or errors born of inattention. Do you consider yourself better than the masters? Who are you to refuse the risk of creation?”   The questions are worth considering, not only for photographers but for anyone tempted toward creativity but fearful of public failure.

Looking at the photograph, I confess to curiosity. Why is it still available? Why didn’t it disappear from the catalogues, the archives?  Van der Leun notes he was told during his call to the Reference Desk at the Los Angeles Public Library’s photo collection that their images were from negatives given to the Library in the early 1960s by Adams himself. Did he overlook the double exposure?  Was its inclusion with the negatives pure accident? Might Adams have seen the image as a photographic analogy to the imperfections of nature ~ the knot in the wood, so to speak – and just thrown it in with a grin?  There’s no way to know.

Lacking a definitive explanation, I prefer to believe Adams tucked his flawed image into the group of donated negatives as a gift for photographers not yet born. Seen in isolation, it could be any snapshot taken by any casual observer. Seen in the context of Adams’ oeuvre it stands as a reminder that even the greatest photographer picked up a camera for a first time, even when art permeates the soul techniques must be learned,  and above all even the greatest among us can have the dreaded “off day”.  

With Half Dome and El Capitan before us, we rarely consider how many double exposures there must have been.  Even for Ansel Adams, there were poorly exposed, ineptly developed, out-of-focus and badly framed images.  In the end, it makes no difference. It’s the genius that endures. 

Aspens ~ Northern New Mexico

From time to time I’ve wished I could have accompanied Adams on one of his photo shoots. It would have been fascinating to watch him work, less for the sake of the final images than for the opportunity to witness the decision-making process leading to their capture.  In the past, if I could have had my choice I would have traveled with him to El Capitan, to one of the stands of trees he rendered so beautifully or perhaps to the church at Taos, which I’ve photographed myself.

But today, my perspective has changed. While I admire and respond even more deeply to his representations of nature, I’ve come to appreciate his Los Angeles work in a way I never thought possible, and the double exposure from the bowling alley is especially dear.  

Others may dismiss it out of hand as trivial or insignificant. I see it as an inspiring if unintentional reminder from a consummate artist that it’s worth sluicing the sands in pursuit of the diamond, worth daring the double exposure on behalf of the perfect shot and certainly worth accepting interminable, ordinary days as the price of one extraordinary hour.  

Some day I may return to Half Dome and El Capitan, Taos and Sonoma for inspiration. But for now? For these ordinary days filled with extraordinary challenges? There’s no question where I prefer to be. You can find me hanging out with Ansel, down at the bowling alley.

Sunset Bowling Tournament

 

Comments are welcome ~ to leave a comment, please click below. 
Each of Adams’ Los Angeles photos used here is linked to Gerard Van der Leun’s Flickr Photostream.  His full entry with links to the LAPL Adams collection and further historical notes can be found in his American Digest archives. 
Published in: on February 7, 2010 at 3:52 am  Comments (16)  
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  1. Linda,

    This piece, as I was reading it, reminded me of a similar line of thought living in a remembrance published this week by The New Yorker, on the life of J.D. Salinger.

    It is for this article, this shared line of thought alone, that I cannot yet bring myself to part with the magazine, in spite of having read it from cover to cover.

    It comes in the recounting of how Salinger was affected by a piece that she herself had written, many years before: “He liked the way the bystanders were described, noting that they’d been given “their true and everlasting unimportance.”

    Then later on, she recounts how Salinger viewed the work of a few other authors:

    “Emerson was a touchstone, and Salinger quoted him in letters. For instance, “A man must have aunts and cousins, must buy carrots and turnips, must have barn and woodshed, must go to market and to the blacksmith’s shop, must saunter and sleep and be inferior and silly.” Writers, he thought, had troubled abiding by that…”

    Surely, bowling alleys and double negatives make fine company for carrots and turnips.

    Janell

    Janell,

    I’ve never been much of a fan of Salinger, so it’s hard for me to move beyond my prejudices to an appreciation of Lillian Ross’s piece. I’ve always thought of him as a modern day Ahab – a man with an infinite grudge against the universe. When I discovered tonight that Melville himself described Emerson as having “a defect in the region of the heart”, my initial thought was, “How appropriate that he should have been a touchstone for Salinger.” After all, it was Salinger who said, “I started writing and making up characters in the first place because nothing or not much away from the typewriter was reaching my heart at all.”

    What gives me cold chills is Salinger’s comment about Ross’s bystanders being given “their true and everlasting unimportance”. What appeals to me about Adams is his conviction that, as Annie Dillard puts it, “everything counts”. Having no direct knowledge of either man, I’m in no position to judge their lives or their attitudes. But I’ve lived and worked with both attitudes in my day, and I know which I prefer.

    As for your larger point, that none of us can safely sever our ties to the necessities and freedoms of ordinary life – those carrots and turnips and bowling alleys – I completely agree. I suppose learning how to live with them is the trick.

    Linda

  2. Yippee that Adams took photos like this!

    I’ve struggled a bit myself with the topic of photography and the various schools and genres that make it up. I have a talented friend who is well thought of in Europe for her photography, and she has encouraged me to go after film, which is why I took Holga pictures a couple years ago. She was most thrilled with my double exposure, and even hoped for good ones in her own work. With a Holga camera you are bound to forget to wind the film, so doubles are almost inevitable. Will they be fun and interesting? She thought mine was (the second of these five, “even double is not enough”):

    http://flying.my-expressions.com/galleries/7346_1577757471/68938

    I did a post on Garry Winogrand, an amazing street photographer who sought a grant from the Guggenheim Foundation, with this paragraph in 1964:

    “I look at the pictures I have done up to now, and they make me feel that who we are and how we feel and what is to become of us just doesn’t matter. Our aspirations and successes have been cheap and petty. I read the newspapers, the columnists, some books, I look at some magazines [our press]. They all deal in illusions and fantasies. I can only conclude that we have lost ourselves, and that the bomb may finish the job permanently, and it just doesn’t matter, we have not loved life. I cannot accept my conclusions, and so I must continue this photographic investigation further and deeper. This is my project.”

    I posted about it here, titled “it’s what’s in the frame”:
    http://ruthie822.blogspot.com/2008/07/its-whats-in-frame.html

    Many of Winogrand’s photos in his resultant book titled “1964” were shot from the car he was riding in. Every single one has a person in it.

    This is where much of today’s “good” photography is going. Not in gorgeous scenes of natural treasures, but in the everyday of people. It’s like they’re in agreement with Winogrand, it feels like people just don’t matter any more in the context of government. We have to get back to that core: people are it, and their stories. Let’s show that in pictures.

    I’ve thought lately that I would like to never take another picture that doesn’t have a person in it. But living in the country the surrounding landscape is my subject. I love it, but I am torn about this, seriously, within my being. People matter. I want to show their faces, their stories.

    Ruth,

    It’s a marvel to me that a post intended as a reflection on imagined artistic “perfection” vs the gritty realities of a necessarily imperfect creative process should have inspired an “art/landscape” versus “people” response! Several things caught my attention here ~ the opinions expressed are my own, etc. ;-)

    When I read the quoted paragraph from Winogrand, my first thought was of Falkner’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech, which included this:

    Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.

    Winogrand’s words feel much closer in time and spirit to Faulkner’s 1950 speech than to our era. Both reflect Cold War concerns and a world far more complex and frightening than many people understand. Whatever’s going on in today’s schools, I’m fairly sure the “duck-and-cover” drills that sent us under our desks to avoid the bomb aren’t around any longer.

    It also occurs to me that choosing people as a subject doesn’t necessarily imply a more personal touch, or an appreciation for the people themselves. It seems ironic at best that many of Winogrand’s photos were shot from a car – an almost perfect separation of photographer from subject.

    That kind of separation is an issue in another iconic photo: Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother”. Lange herself said, “I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her name or her history.”

    Forty years later, “a few years before her death in 1983, Florence Owen Thompson revealed her identity in a letter to a local newspaper, the Modesto Bee, stating her dismay about the iconic photograph. She felt exploited by it, never received a penny, and seemed hurt that the photographer never asked her name.”

    That these issues are complex goes without saying. Each of us will come to terms with them in our own way. But it seems to me that, if we are to photograph people, we should do so in a way that acknowledges their personal reality and our common humanity. On the other hand, people are not the only ones with stories. The natural world has stories of her own to tell, and if we are to hear the whispers of the mountains and trees, the ladybugs and the lions, we need Ansel Adams as much as we need Dorothea Lange.

    And by the way – I loved the post and Winogrand’s images ;-)

    Linda

  3. By the way, in the post about Winogrand, my friend the European photographer – Alek – has left comments, and there is a wonderful interview with Winogrand in the post. And he didn’t refer to himself as a “street photographer.” Just a “still photographer.”

    Months ago I came across a wonderful blog that concerned itself with the difference between “street” and “still” photography. If I can find it again I’ll send you the link.

    Linda

  4. Me again. :D

    While responding to your comment at my current post I remembered my brother Bennett, the photographer, who truly appreciated snapshots and family photos. To him, there was an art to it. He taught me time and again to just move a bit and get something in the frame that would add to the story. For instance, I was about to snap a picture of my brother Nelson holding Lesley as a baby, and she was wearing someone’s huge cowboy hat! They were smiling big at each other – just adorable. Bennett said sweetly and in a hurry, “wait wait, Ruthie, move just a bit and look, you’ll get the ceramic Christmas tree behind them there on the table in the shot. Then you’ll always know it was Christmas time.” I have forgotten to do that from time to time, but I have never forgotten the advice.

    Sadly, Bennett did not live to see digital cameras and the joys of digital dark rooms. He stayed up all night developing his own prints. I often wonder if he would have enjoyed the new technologies. I do think he would have because he loved computers. He virtually left art photography behind and favored videotaping family events toward the end of his short life. He valued family and history – our stories – more than all the art photography in the world, bless him.

    Ruth,

    I remember you writing about Bennett. I had just begun reading your blog around that time. Perhaps it was a bit earlier. In any event, it was a touching post and such a tribute to his skills and passion for his art. The beauty of it all is that there’s room for every sort of photographer, just as there’s opportunity for any of us to change our focus in the course of our creative lives.

    When I was reading about Adams for this piece, I found a new tidbit that tickled me. In 1983 he said, “I am sure the next step will be the electronic image, and I hope I shall live to see it. I trust that the creative eye will continue to function, whatever technological innovations may develop.” I think we can agree it’s functioning rather well!

    Linda

  5. All those words to say, maybe Adams did not think of that double as “flawed.” :)

    Ruth,

    Perhaps not ~ although, from all I’ve read about his work, his high level of intentionality and his insistence upon maintaining the highest standards of artistic practice, I suspect otherwise.

    In any event, it cheers me mightily to see the double exposure. Before any of us can produce good art or bad art, we need to produce something ~ anything ~ and far too many people never dare begin for fear of not being “good enough”, making mistakes or being criticized.

    As one of my friends said after reading a particularly bad poem by a writer she admired, “Well. If he can write that badly, perhaps I can write that well.” Perhaps someone will see the Adams’s double exposure and think, “Well, if it could happen to him, perhaps I’ll give it a whirl.”

    Linda

  6. … it stands as a reminder that even the greatest photographer picked up a camera for a first time, even when art permeates the soul techniques must be learned, and above all even the greatest among us can have the dreaded ”off day”.

    Everyone must begin at the beginning. It’s easy to forget that when viewing or reading the art of a master. I love that he left the “double” in, and now I’ll always wonder why.

    Bella

    Bella,

    Beginning at the beginning – so simple, and so necessary. It’s like the advice I was given about how to deal with the aftermath of a hurricane. You start where you can start, and do what you can do.

    Isn’t it easy to forget the masters are people, too? But they are ~ imbued with the same humor, grumpiness, anxieties and hopes as everyone else. I do like thinking he left it in as a joke. It just makes me feel good.

    Linda

  7. I remember reading a biography of Yo Yo Ma. He learned the cello at a very early age, I forgot, maybe just 3 or 4. His musician father taught him at home, one bar a day. When we see successful artists, we see them at the present, forgetting that the present is an accumulation of decades of practices and learning, plus other experiences honing their art and skills. Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule to gain success may be a bar set too low. I’m sure Yo Yo Ma has put in many more hours.

    Now having said that, I also admire those who have ‘made it’ on their first shot. I’m thinking of Oscar magnitude screenwriters, winning or nominated with their first screenplay… e.g. Juno’s screenwriter Diablo Cody, and now the Oscar nominated Best Picture The Hurt Locker, written by Mark Boal, his first script.

    But of course, I’m realistic. I’m one who subscribe to the pragmatics, even in the pursuit of dreams. But I believe though, other than passion and practice, some qualities could well be naturally endowed within the genetic codes. But your post is encouraging. I’m sure Adams has what it takes inherently, but techniques and skills, or even the artistic perspectives and tastes need to be learned extrinsically as well.

    BTW, I just love your titles. Now is that a skill learned or inherently endowed?

    Arti,

    Maybe Gladwell should add a caveat: in some cases, 10,000 hours is what’s needed to get a foot in the door.

    One thing that occurs to me about Cody and Boal is that, no matter how sudden their public success, they surely were investing themselves in a good bit of private preparation. I suspect both did a lot of reading, writing and thinking prior to submitting that first project. Learning a craft and gaining public recognition are two different things, after all. That was the line that struck me most forcefully in the wonderful Carolyn Arends video you introduced me to. She says of the woman, “She is an author, or maybe a poet… A genius, but it’s just this world doesn’t know it”. The next Ansel Adams could be out there this very minute, clicking away while the rest of the world orders burgers and worries about paying off the credit card.

    I do love titles. Now and then I get the title first and then expand it into a post – like blowing up a balloon. That’s what I did with “Raise High the Floor Beam, Islanders”. (Actually, I just looked at my draft files. There are a bunch of titles waiting for content!) I don’t know if it’s even a skill – it’s more like a game – word play run amok. My favorite part of The New Yorker these days is their cartoon caption contest on the back page!

    Linda

  8. After reading Ruth’s comments and your replies, Linda, I suddenly remembered something…a parallel…that tickles me to no end still today. Back in my linguistics’ days, learning to write indigenous languages that have not yet been written, one of our renowned professors, just a squeak of a man who barely talked above a whisper, would suddenly yell out: “WRITE. WRITE. WRITE.” Then he would add very quietly, “You can’t correct your mistakes until you write them down.” He knew we hated to write down new sounds and sentence structures for fear we’d make too many errors and get it all wrong.

    HA! What would Ansel Adams yell out to all of us!

    Ginnie,

    Oh, my goodness – how I relate to your story! When I lived in Liberia, I had the experience of trying to learn Kpelle, from the Mande branch of the Niger-Congo family of languages. It was SO hard, and the errors I made just in speaking always left my houseboy in stitches. Now they have Kpelle software, for heaven’s sake. Then, we just had friends to help us out, and some of the translator groups still working in the country (the language was first written in 1935.)

    Your professor was so right. One of the Liberian sayings I always liked was, “You never try, you never know”. It has many layers of meaning, but the application to the learning process is obvious.

    I think that one of the best reasons for anyone to have a blog is to have the experience of putting their photos, music, art or writing in front of a public audience. Learning to create is the first step. Learning to deal with criticism after the creation has been unveiled is the second.

    I still remember the first time someone took vehement issue with me over a particular post. I spent all night crafting a response, and by the time I hit the “post” button I was just quivering. After all, when you’ve grown up avoiding confrontation and wanting approval, the first tendency always is to say, “Oh, yes… you’re right. I was wrong.” But I wasn’t wrong, and said so. In the end, it was a good experience, and it taught me an important lesson: creative projects are like children. They deserve protection once you’ve sent them out into the world. ;-)

    I think Ansel Adams might yell: LOOK!

    Linda

  9. I will have to tell my mom about the Ansel Adams LA photos. He is one of her favorite photographers. She even has a saying about taking photos, “They can’t all be an Ansel Adams.” I think she will get a kick out of the bowling alley photos.

    When I wanted to take better photos my mom’s advice was to take more. Lots more. She said you can have a ‘good eye’ or a good feel’ for what makes a great image but until you take the shot you have nothing.

    Several years ago she took some photos of my oldest daughter at the beach. One is just amazing. It is almost an iconic image of a girl in the surf. Three others are really good and a couple more are not bad. The rest range from okay to just awful. And she is a pro. ;)

    I love that the Adams’ photos show anyone can have a bad day or a bad shot and still create beautiful works of art.

    Thanks for sharing these.

    Hi, Kit!

    How nice to see you – hope all’s going well with “the process”.

    I remember you mentioning your mom’s a photographer. And there it is again – that advice to “just do it”, and do a lot of “it”, and keep doing “it” even when you don’t feel like it, or it doesn’t seem to be working – whatever.

    I didn’t put in the link to Chase Jarvis’ blog in my response to Arti, but I do think it’s worth reading what he has to say. The title of the first blog I read is entitled No Excuses”. Much of his blog is too technical for me, but there are some great entries about the creative process generally scattered about.

    You know, it was Adams himself who said that twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop. Of course, if we’re using his standards, I’d be happy even for a few insignificant photos!

    Linda

  10. I’ve always loved Ansel Adams’ work — his landscapes move me, and in some ways, I found being a Yosemite almost a let down after seeing his photographs. They were ever so much more beautiful and evocative than standing there myself, looking at El Capitan and the waterfalls. I am tremendously moved by these and by Adams’ life story.

    But I wasn’t familiar with the Los Angeles photographs — these are captivating. But I have to disagree with you on the double exposure. I loved this — it had such action and energy. I don’t think it was a mistake, but an effort to catch the moment in time, the toss, the follow-through. I liked that one very much!

    jeanie,

    I like your interpretation of the photo. The only thing is, if he were trying to catch the toss and follow-through, it would be the same person, and it isn’t! (Or, at minimum it is the same person at different times.) I had to go back and double check – your suggestion made me think I’d missed something again – but there are two people, not one. Look at the shirt sleeves – one person has long sleeves, the other person’s sleeves are rolled up. And the pants are different.

    Now, that doesn’t mean the effect wasn’t intentional. But it’s not a single action. It’s kind of an interesting thought – I often hear people hypothesizing what Adams would or wouldn’t do in the digital darkroom. Now I wonder what he’d do with some of the shooting technology available today. The earliest reference I could find to burst mode shooting was 1983, a year before his death. I’ll bet he would have enjoyed that!

    I’ve had the same experience you mention – seeing a place I’ve come to know through photographs and finding it lacking. I don’t think that means reality is inferior or that the photographs aren’t “true” – I think it’s an indication photographers have access to the spirit of a place in ways the casual observer doesn’t.

    After all this, I’m heading straight back to your Ken Burns entry and re-read them. It will be interesting to ponder them after all I’ve learned about Adams’ approach to his work.

    Linda

    EDIT/ADD: I just had an interesting conversation with someone who’s a photographer – a “real photographer”, as I like to say. Her initial conclusion also was that the photo was purposeful. So, now I have a whole other set of questions. Was it “successful”? What might he have been trying to achieve? and so on.

    Blogging’s often like Alice in Wonderland, I find. I’m constantly saying, “Whoops!” as I fall down another rabbithole!

  11. Well Linda, luckily for us readers, you are a writer who scatters many diamonds and little gravel!

    Jeannine,

    You’re too kind, but I know the truth. You’re seeing sparklies everywhere these days!

    I keep thinking about Anais Nin’s contention that “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”. You have to be seeing the world through a whole new set of lenses because of the recent changes in your life. I suspect Ansel Adams’ way of seeing the world helped make possible the beauty he left us. The great thing about Adams is that he could make even gravel look good!

    Linda

  12. Always keep a diamond in your mind.

    A lot of things have been said about contrasts, and that to appreciate gems, there must be a lot of gravel etc etc.
    Maybe masterpieces are not masterpieces as such, it depends on our eyes entirely. Art can be analysed, weighted, measured; and to some extent you can measure quality. But someone said “there is only one valuable thing in art: the thing you cannot explain”. I see his sharp, composed, evocative images. Still, I’d rather hang out at the bowling alley too.

    I am fond of gravel.

    boblets,

    One of the mysteries I love to ponder is the response of people to art. I’ll go to a musical only if forced, but could listen to baroque and the Blues forever. I’d pass right by a room filled with Ruebens and Vermeer for an hour with Wyeth and Winslow Homer. On the other hand, just because I wouldn’t let certain art through my front door doesn’t mean there aren’t others who respond to it with deep appreciation and even joy.

    What I love to ponder even more is how much beauty and creativity is being made available through the internet. “The thing we can’t explain” keeps popping up everywhere – on Flickr, on websites, on blogs. I’ve discovered artists I never would have known – sometimes even being granted access to their studios and creative processes through videos. The critics might stick their noses in the air and haughtily utter the dismissive word, “Gravel”. But sometimes – many times – I’m willing to say, “Diamond”.

    Of course, the opposite is true as well. There have been more than a few times when everyone around is insisting “diamond”, and I’m the one muttering under my breath, “gravel….. and good looking gravel, at that”. :-)

    Linda

  13. Beautiful Linda – I agree with a previous poster -you always leave us diamonds! I’ve been to Yosemite and it does take your breath away! And…my daughter is going bowling tonight with her husband! Just thought that was quite a coincidence!

    Karen,

    It seems to be another example of “what goes around, comes around”. When I was in high school and college, bowling was quite the thing. Then, it seemed to fall out of favor – at least I wasn’t as aware of it as a social activity. Now, it seems to be coming back. It always was fun, and if you go to the American Digest link and look at the whole series of photos, they really do capture it well.

    You’re one of the lucky ones – I know you’ve seen so much of that beautiful country. Someone asked me if I wouldn’t be afraid to see Half Dome after looking at these gorgeous photos for so many years. I said no – after all, Adams did a pretty good job with the redwoods, too, and they certainly didn’t disappoint when I saw them!

    Linda

  14. I love that photograph of the bowler doubled. I love the imperfection of it, the humanity of it; sometimes the very best art is flawed. It captures us in all of our uncomplicated, natural, unpretentious selves, and that’s what we often try so hard to cover up. (At least in my neck of the woods. Okay, at least for me. I hate it when I find myself caught up in the superficial. The unnecessary. The chase for perfection. So that photograph is particularly appealing to me).

    That said, I also love the shots that Ansel Adams took of trees. Really.

    Bellezza,

    Of course you love the tree photos. You love trees, generally. I still can see the photos you posted of your golden autumn trees. They’re different than Adams, but just as memorable.

    I love that in so many cultures, flaws are purposely inserted into art or crafts. Knitters still speak of “Persian flaws”, a reference to Persian carpet makers who believed only Allah can make something perfect. Each carpet made would contain a few flaws, to attest to the maker’s devotion. I know that many native American weavers purposefully include flaws, and at least one potter I’ve known would find a way to include some small flaw, if only an indentation in the clay.

    And now I’m grinning because it just occurred to me – wouldn’t it be wonderful to be so skilled at your chosen work you had to intentionally include a flaw? I don’t expect to have that experience any time soon! :-)

    Linda

  15. Here’s what we’ll do, Linda. We’ll just tell every one we inserted the flaws on purpose!

    Once, when I was little, my father made chocolate chips so large that the whole pan came out as one big cookie. When we laughed, joyous over the size and my mother’s dismay, he looked puzzled for a minute. Then he said, “I made them that way on purpose!”

    It’s been a family joke for a long while, and I’d like to think that I can give up any idea of perfection totally.

    Alas, it still sucks me in from time to time.

    Bellezza!

    But, wait…

    If you gave up any idea of perfection totally, wouldn’t that be… uh… perfect renunciation?

    Gotcha!

    Sending you a big grin, and warm Valentine’s wishes ;-)

    Linda

  16. Linda;

    Didn’t know where to tell you or ask…I put your link on my wordpress site.

    I did read the comment on the ‘diamond phrase’ reference ..tripping on the fault…I’ve lost its location but wanted to agree. I suppose the perfect word search will always be on-going as the creative process is an ever-changing dynamic thing..like catching the perfect light….

    I love a good quest will enjoy sharing the road..you write..I’ll read!! :) You make me want to do better with my narratives.

    Judy

    Judy,

    How kind of you to share my site – thank you very much. I’ll be returning the favor, as I love helping people find the “diamonds” that are scattered about the web and your photography certainly qualifies.

    I like the analogy between words and light. Have you read Annie Dillard’s “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek”? If not, I’m certain you’d enjoy it. If you have, you already know how applicable her musings on light, seeing, being in the present and “stalking” are to both photography and writing. It’s one of those books I re-read a couple of times every year, and often dip into. It might even my answer to the old question, “What one book would you take to a deserted island”….

    Thanks again for stopping by. I’m so pleased to have found you!

    Linda


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