Ansel Adams is one of the most famous and best-known, best-loved photographers who ever lived. Ask anyone if they have ever heard of him, and most have. Ansel achieved success as a landscape photographer, photographing most, if not all, of the United States national parks. He did so in black and white. That was his medium. He felt that one could best depict natural settings in black and white because of the different tones of gray found in black and white photography. These different tones he believed (and many other landscape/nature photographers) would allow a wider range of personal interpretation of the subject. All one has to do is look at his work to see the brilliant control and eye and method he employed in every image – all done in those different tones of gray. However, there IS another way…
When I first decided to pick up a camera, my motivation was nature. As mentioned in a previous post in this blog, I was only 9 when I took a memorable trip to the gorgeous Canadian Rockies and British Columbia with my family. The beauty my youthful brown eyes saw was like nothing I had ever witnessed before. It took my breath away. It moved me to the point that I kept having to refill my film in my little Kodak Instamatic, having only 10 exposures in the roll! Good grief! Only 10! I have to laugh and shake my head at that today. But, yes, that’s how it used to be way before the age of digital. With only 10 shots, I had to be frugal, but seeing all that beauty everywhere I looked was quite difficult! I remember buying the film and having a choice of color or black and white. Well, in my 9-year-old mind, color was the only choice for me. How, on God’s GREEN earth, could I even THINK of choosing to photograph the stunning colors I was seeing in British Columbia in black and white?? So, color film
Fast forward a decade or so and one of my first jobs out of college working at an art gallery in the Chicago area, I was first introduced to the man who would influence me the most in my photography – Eliot Porter. If you don’t know who he is, you really should. Eliot Porter is the Ansel Adams of color photography. Please take the time to google him and learn about his magnificence. One of his most famous prints was for sale at this art gallery I was working in at the time – it’s my favorite of Mr. Porter’s works and it’s titled “Redbud Tree in Bottom Land, Red River Gorge, Kentucky, April 17, 1968”. It hangs in several museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York City.
Gorgeous. Seeing his beautiful photograph was instant validation for this photographer. I read up on Eliot Porter’s philosophy and found my artistic soulmate! Truth! I discovered his views on color photography were the same exact views as mine. It was uncanny! He felt that color photography more clearly illustrated the complexity of the relationships in nature that drew his attention. As he wrote, “The first objects that attracted me, as might be expected, were the most colorful ones. Of the birds they were those with the brightest plumage, while among other subjects they were the flowers, lichens, and autumn leaves…I made pictures of the same subject in both color and black and white, it was usually the color photograph that carried the message because it contained the information that attracted my attention in the first place.”, (Eliot Porter, Epilogue, 1987) Indeed, sir!
I cannot tell you how many times I started to edit one of my photos in black and white and always changed it to color! Please don’t misunderstand me! Black and
What do you think? Do you agree with Eliot Porter (and me)? Do you think color photography best displays nature? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. It’s a particularly passionate subject for me. Please scroll down to the bottom of this screen to leave me your feedback and to also subscribe to my blog, if you haven’t already done so. Thank you so much! I sure love hearing from you!