If you ever wondered what it was like to be taught by Ansel Adams, here’s your answer

Aug 26, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

If you ever wondered what it was like to be taught by Ansel Adams, here’s your answer

Aug 26, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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ansel_workshop

Ansel Adams is one of those legends of photography that most people have heard of. Whether they’re a photographer themselves or not, they know who he is. They know of his work, they may even own some of it. For those of us who are photographers, have you ever wondered what it would have been like to be taught by the man himself?

Marc Silber of Advancing Your Photography has been making a series of short films over the last few months. Each of them covering a different aspect of Ansel’s life and work. In his newest video, Marc wants to help answer that question. He introduces us to Ansel’s daughter-in-law, Jeanne, who was ran Ansel’s business for over two decades.

YouTube video

Ansel started teaching workshops in 1940, originally lasting two weeks. As time progressed, the nature of daily life changed. People had more things to do, more responsibilities and less free time. They could simply no longer get away to learn photography in such durations. So, the workshops became shorter as a result.

One unique feature of Ansel’s workshops, and one I wish I could have experienced, was that he would print students’ work. He would take a negative and work on it himself, showing how to bring the best out of the photograph. The negatives were good to begin with, but students always wanted to see what magic he could bring to their work.

ansel_printing

The video also talks about Ansel’s portrait work. Ansel was often criticised for having “stilted” portraits, with stiff and obviously posed subjects. But I think it’s a matter of perspective. I’ve certainly seen far more uncomfortable portrait subjects in the last few years on Facebook than I have in Ansel’s work.

Given the technology of the day, it’s not like he could quickly check the LCD and get another shot. You may not like Ansel’s portraits, but they are what he wanted to create.

ansel_portrait

If you’re a fan of Ansel’s work, or even just curious about him, it’s a great insight. It puts a perspective on some things for me I hadn’t considered. It’ll definitely make me approach some of my photography with a slightly different mindset.

I think there’s very few things that make us wish we were born at a different time. For me, this is one of those things, and would have loved to have been able to experience one of his workshops for myself.

How about you? Would you have attended an Ansel Adams workshop? Are you one of those lucky few that actually did? Let us know in the comments.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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5 responses to “If you ever wondered what it was like to be taught by Ansel Adams, here’s your answer”

  1. Charlotte Brennan Avatar
    Charlotte Brennan

    Dan Kerin

  2. Jan Avatar
    Jan

    Hi,
    I’m too young to have taken part of an Ansel Adams Workshop, but I signed in for a workshop with Bruce Barnbaum, and that was one of the best thrilling weeks in my photographic life.
    He has a way to push you to print your negative yourself in a (almost) best possible way. He still gives workshops and one to one lessons around different themes. They are really worthwhile, for both worlds – analog and digital photography

  3. Ralph Hightower Avatar
    Ralph Hightower

    I enjoy watching Marc Sibler’s videos. I would’ve loved to meet Ansel Adams and taken a class from him.

  4. Craig S. Avatar
    Craig S.

    I had the privilege of Ansel reviewing a few of my prints. By reviewing, I mean actually drumming his fingers on them. “yikes”! Is all I said, I think…

  5. oandroplex700 Avatar
    oandroplex700

    In my opinion, the greatest photographer, that ever lived……i learned so much from his techniques ……