Morgan Pupa: My Icons of Photography Project April 25, 2017

ANSEL ADAMS, LEWIS HINE, and IMOGEN CUNNINGHAM are: BREATHTAKING, powerful, and INTIMATE.

ANSEL ADAMS

"BREATHTAKING"

While admittedly cliche, the first word that always comes to mind for me when admiring Ansel Adams work is "breathtaking". I tried out other adjectives for this header but just kept coming back to this one. I have been awestruck by his photos for as long as I can remember. Growing up my dad had multiple posters of his work hanging around the house, including the one of half dome and the moon I've included below. Learning about his work at a young age inspired me even more to become a photographer one day. His images truly do leave me awe struck every time. I was very excited to learn more about his life and the history behind his photos earlier in this course.

His Style

Ansel Adams is best known for his striking black and white images of the outdoors. His images typically have intense contrast, with dark blacks, bright whites, and a full range of grays in between. This contrast, along with his strategic use of light, shadows, and highlights, capture the small details that make his work standout. Adams' work contains images shot at both a great distance, like his many photos of half dome, and in close proximity to his subject matter, like the image of the rose above. His images are also very rich in texture. They accurately portray things like the smoothness of the lakes, jaggedness of the rocks, and the delicate and soft nature of the rose petals. Some of his most famous and recognizable work is of Yosemite Valley before it was deemed the National Park that it is today.

Top left: Mount McKinley and Wonder Lake; Bottom left: Rose and Driftwood; Right: Moon and Half Dome

The Images

Mount McKinley and Wonder Lake:

I chose to include this image because I think it portrays a lot of Adams' stylistic choices all together. The darkness of the hills between the bright lake and mountains adds contrast and a sense of depth to the photo. There is also a lot of detail present in the mountains, even though they are so far in the background. Overall, it a very well composed image and really showcases Adams' ability to take a very simple subject matter and turn it into something outstanding.

Rose and Driftwood

I chose to include this image because it showcased a side of Ansel Adams' work that I feel a lot of people, myself included, are not as familiar with. When I think of Ansel Adams I think of wide landscape shots with tall trees and steep cliffs and mountainsides. This picture is everything that those pictures are not. It is very soft and delicate compared to a lot of his other work. The proximity of the shot to the rose brings out the smallest of details, like the grain in the driftwood and the lines in the rose petals. I felt that it was important to include this style of Adam's' work along with his more well known pieces. It definitely stands out as different when placed next to some of his landscape photos, and shows that photographers styles are almost always changing and evolving.

Moon and Half Dome

I chose to include this photograph because I feel it is almost impossible to talk about Ansel Adams without talking about his images of Yosemite Valley, and more specifically, those of half dome. For me, this image is the epitome of an Ansel Adams photograph. It is the one I have seen on my dads posters, book covers and various websites. I wanted to include a diverse range of his images, but when it comes down to it, this is one of the images he is undoubtedly most known for. I was drawn to this particular image of half dome due to the presence of the moon in the photograph. That detail really adds to an already enticing subject matter. The image has a great sense of framing, with a sharp shadow on the right and bottom, and bright light pouring in on the rock. It really draws your eye immediately to the top of half dome. It also has amazing contrast and detail in the textures that are present in the rock itself.

Ansel Adam's Role in Photography

Ansel Adams was one of various photographers that contributed to developing a style that moved away from the very popular pictorialism. His images focused on crisp details and texture and were taken very straight on. They were clean, unlike the soft focus and manipulation often seen in pictorialist photographs. He photographed his subject matter for what it was. He was a founding member of the f/64 group that we learned about earlier this semester, which included various other influential photographers and truly emphasized this more "real" style of capturing images. Adams was also very involved in sharing his knowledge with other aspiring photographers, holding various workshops and participating in many guest lectures.

My Interest in Ansel Adams

As I described above, my interest in Ansel Adams started at a pretty young age. He is the first photographer I can remember being introduced to and his images have stuck with me ever since. Remembering specific artists and recognizing their work has never been a strong point for me, but I almost always recognize Adams' work. Personally, I always struggle with landscape/nature photography and prefer to take portraits any day. I think this makes me admire Adam's work even more. Knowing how much knowledge and talent it takes to capture the detail that he does gives his work even more meaning. Prior to this class I actually did not know what a prominent role his pictures played in making Yosemite a National Park, but I'm very grateful that they did. It is amazing to me how powerful a photograph can be in persuading people to protect such a beautiful place that has become so well known today.

LEWIS HINE

"POWERFUL"

To me, Hines' images are not only powerful in their subject matter, but in the purpose they serve. They shed light on rather dark and uncomfortable subjects , and give a voice to those who are unable to speak up for themselves. They capture strength, vulnerability, and tragedy in a shockingly beautiful way. I have always admired those who use their art to make a difference, and Hines is with a doubt one of those people.

His Style

Lewis Hine is most well known for his black and white portraiture. He used his talent to shed light on various social issues. The most recognized of these being his work depicting child labor and immigration. Hine's images typically have soft, bright and natural light. They are very crisp and in focus and capture the smallest of details. A majority of his portraits are taken head on at a close proximity to his subjects or from the side. This allows him to very precisely capture his subject's emotions and unique personalities. His images are very moving and given the subject matter, often very solemn.

Top left: Adolescent girl in Caroline cotton mill; Bottom left: A small glimpse of the outside world; Right: Italian Immigrant at Ellis Island

The Images

Note: I struggled to find specific titles for these images as they were mostly presented in sets with descriptions underneath. The ones used below were what I found to be most common and accurate.

Girl in Cotton Mill:

I chose to include this image because I feel that it is a good representation of most of the work that Hine did regarding child labor, specifically in cotton mills. It is a very strong yet troubling image. The backlight is rather soft, but the shadows are very prominent and create a much darker mood. The shallow depth of field draws your eye directly to the girl's facial expression, which seems almost a little caught off guard or startled. I think this is because she is not used to having her picture taken, and because Hine was often not supposed to be in the workplaces to begin with. This image captures a very small moment of this girls everyday reality, and it is very startling to see such a young child in a n environment like this one.

Small Glimpse of the Outside World

The second image I chose is also from Hine's work capturing child labor. I chose two images from this series because I feel that they are some of the most important photographs of most of Hine's work. They shed light on a terrible industry, something that most people would not discuss otherwise. The image captures a very unsettling moment, of a young cotton mill worker admiring the outside world. It is a very moving image, and does a great job at capturing both the girl and her work environment in one frame. Unlike the first image I selected, this picture has a very deep depth of field. The mill just seems to go on forever. The lighting in this image has also always caught my eye. It is very soft, and gets lighter the deeper you look into the image.

Italian Immigrant at Ellis Island

I chose this image because it comes from my other favorite of Hine's photo studies. I think Hine was very successful in capturing the overall emotion and mood experienced by many immigrants. It is something most people do not have to confront on a day to day basis, and I admire Hines for making it more public. Aestetically, this image of the Italian immigrant is stunning. It is sharp and in focus, and you can see all of the details in her clothes, skin, and expression. There is a great range of tones and contrast, and the light perfectly illuminates the woman's face. I love looking through these images as I feel that each one tells a different story, and Hine does an amazing job at capturing each immigrants individuality.

Lewis Hine's Role in Photography

In my opinion, Hine's greatest contribution to photography was his work in demonstrating how taking pictures can be used to shine light on and create change in pressing social issues. He took a risk with his reputation and career by showcasing such controversial topics. It is often noted that he had to create elaborate disguises to be able to get into these areas and take pictures. Because of this, Hine played a huge role in eradicating child labor in the United States. Without his dedication, much of this information would have stayed in the dark for a lot longer than it did. It is admirable that someone could be so artistically talented and socially aware, and I think that his work will continue to influence future social and documentary photographers for generations to come.

My Interest in Lewis Hine

I was first introduced to Lewis Hine's work last semester in my introductory film photography class. I can't remember what it was being used to taught, however I know the first thing that caught my eye was his use of natural light. Lighting can make or break an image, and Hine truly uses it to it's full potential. It is soft without losing detail and frames his subjects perfectly. The beauty of his pictures aside, I also really admired his very controversial subject matter. I think it is amazing that photographs can be powerful enough to start conversations about issues such as child labor laws, and I greatly admire Hine for using his talent to do that. He could have very easily made a living taking stunning portraits of people, but he chose to use his work to shed light on things that needed to be fixed. I will always be intrigued by those who choose to make a difference with their art and am happy Hine was able to so with his. These images still get me thinking today about child labor laws in other countries now that the US has improved, and I think that says a lot about the quality of Hine's work. It makes people think even all these years later, and will most likely continue doing so for a long time.

IMOGEN CUNNINGHAM

"INTIMATE"

I went back and forth between intimate and intricate to best describe Cunningham's work in my eyes. However, I landed on intimate as I feel that it fits both her portraits of people and of plants, where as intricate come more from my opinion of her botanical work. Cunningham takes great care in studying her subjects and capturing them in their true forms. Her images are candid, raw, unique, and very intimate. Her passion for studying the forms of her subjects shows in the details and uninhibited nature of her pictures.

Her Style

One thing that I noticed about Cunningham is how fluid her actual "style" was. She went through various phases of subject matter throughout her career, ranging from nudes to botanical shots to street photography and even some self portraits. She photographed whatever interested her at that point in her life, which seemed to be constantly changing. Aesthetically most of her works do share similar tones and overall moods. For the most part, they are very soft and detailed. However her composition and posing, much like her subject matter, seemed to be ever changing. I admire this about her, as she did not feel like photos had to fit a certain mold or style. She photographed what she liked to, and was constantly pushing herself to learn new techniques and ways of photographing.

Top left: Ansel Adams, Photographer, Yosemite Valley 2, 1953; Top right: Two Sisters 3, 1928; Bottom: Datura, about 1930.

The Images

Ansel Adams, Photographer, Yosemite Valley:

I choose this photo mainly because I love seeing the association between two photographers that I admire. I learned that they were both apart of the f/64 group I mentioned above, but did not expect to see Ansel Adams as one of Cunningham's subjects when I was looking through her portrait gallery. It is very interesting to see such a candid photo of someone that we are so used to knowing as the one behind the camera. The image seems very authentic and not posed. It seems to capture a small in between moment of the vast amount of time that Adams spent in one of his favorite places.

Two Sisters 3:

I chose to include this image because I felt that it really encompassed the feeling of intimacy I got from her work. Her nude images are all very soft, intimate, and vulnerable. They are photographs of the human body in its purest state, and remain very natural and not sexualized, which is something I feel has been left behind in a lot of today's photography. I admire Cunningham's appreciation of the human body and the way in which she chose to capture it. This image in specific is very well composed, and unique.

Datura:

I chose to include this image because Cunningham's botanical works are some of my favorites. I wanted to provide a variety of her different subject matters when selecting these three images, but this one is the first image that really caught my eye. The proximity to the flower and the details are very striking. It has a very strong contrast, the strong blacks and bright whites bring out every fold of the flower. Her attention to light and detail in her botanical work really sets her images apart from others.

Imogen Cunningham's Role in Photography

Cunningham was arguably as interested in the scientific process behind photography as she was in actually taking the photographs. She spent a good portion of her college studies researching the chemical process that comes with taking and developing photos. She continued this research and curiosity into her adult life and carried it with her through most of her career. One area she spent a lot of time in was researching how to make printing photos more time and cost effective during times of financial hardship. I think one of her biggest roles in photography is that she used her talent not only to produce stunning images, but to further and improve the process for future photographers.

My Interest in Imogen Cunningham

Aside from her beautiful images, I chose to include Cunningham as one for my three photographers because of her extreme dedication to the craft. The more I read about her the more I am impressed by the sheer amount of time she spent photographing her subjects, studying the process and art of photography, and practicing. She was extremely passionate in what she was doing, and that really shows in her work. I also really enjoyed her large array of subject matters and shooting styles. No two images were ever too similar, which adds a great diversity to her work. She does remind me of a saying that states "Create to create, not to impress" because she seemed to always be shooting for herself and what she was most passionate about.

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