This morning, I saw on John Paul Caponigro’s blog a new post showing Ansel Adams’ Clearing Winter Strom. John Paul also invited people to comment on the image. I decided to write my long-winded comment here, on my site instead. After all, comments are not meant to clutter ones blog. So, here it goes.
In a photograph teeming with texture and land formations, I think the photograph is fundamentally about the weather, which is a passing event. Many others who went to the same place to photograph the same scene were, no doubt, disappointed.
I see multiple types of complexities in this contemplative photograph. Aside from the tremendous texture, shape, and form there is an inseparable element of time. Adams in this photograph, a static object, tells us about the passage of time; passed storm and clearing sky. That constitutes the first type of complexity. The second one is the relationship between the “heavens” and the earth. In this photograph, they have come together to embrace each other, celebrate each other’s presence. Embedded in that idea is the implicit sense of “awe”. The land, the sky, the weather, the passage of time are all awe inspiring. We also observe the great respect Adams had for the land and the nature, his expression of “awe” is yet another element in the photograph.
I remember my great aunt’s living room; it was cluttered with all sorts of objects. One could see the standard fare, from chairs to tables, to pictures on the walls to objects on the tables. She was able to bring a rather large number of objects together in that relatively small space, yet everything looked perfectly at home. They all fit. This 19th and early 20th century sensibility, which can be seen in period movies as well, is manifest here on a grand scale. What could be clutter in other people’s photographs are very well tied together through Adams’ careful framing. At a place like this, there are literally infinite number of frames to photograph. This frame that he chose creates a virtual bowl that hold the viewer in the midst of awesome nature, impressive weather, and fleeting time.
I am glad that you posted this photograph which made me to look at the photograph once more with the intention of expressing my thoughts. I also pulled out a few books and looked at the printed versions. They seemed a bit more open to me. That is either due to the differences in the medium, screen vs print; or that your copy is one of his later, darker prints. I personally prefer his earlier prints which were more radiant rather than somber. But, that’s a matter of personal preference.