What Is A Picture Worth: Part Four

Beside the fact that I never camp, I am still not a happy camper. I have been putting off writing my ruminations because I feel like a lone wolf in the arctic, howling into an empty world with nobody listening. But alas, like a good fool who continually hits his head against a solid wall, I will get all my ranting out today and next week I will arrive with a more gentle Yule tide spirit.

Many years ago I had the good fortune to spend some days with Ansel Adams in his house and darkroom. It was an era when photographic technique was truly a test of craftsmanship. There was a nuance to technique; one that would help exemplify one’s own inner feelings. One’s technical expertise was like a painter’s expression through his brush work. A painter’s choice of pigment and it’s expression would help to reflect their inner demons or strivings. It was a further affirmation of their vision.

As I was intense and nurturing a very critical eye, my needs were for deep rich shadow detail. I struggled for years with developers, papers, etc., to find the right formulas. My copy of Ansel Adams, The Negative and The Print became so thread bare it became like a sarcophagus that had dried out and would crumble into dust with the slightest touch.

Over the years I would correspond with Ansel Adams, and finally an opportunity arose to spend slightly more than a week with him in Carmel, CA. At the time I was primarily a 35 mm and large format photographer, and my pictures aesthetically had very little relationship to his, but my technique was all derived from Mr. A.

So I spent a good part of a long week with him, pumping him in his darkroom, at lunch, etc., with every conceivable technical question I could think of. He most graciously answered EVERY question. All his photographic history, experience and photographic life he was willing to share with me, and I listened very, VERY carefully.

It distilled down to this. There is no easy answer. There is no pill to take the embodies you with technical and aesthetic wisdom. If you want to be a classics scholar (a.k.a a noble photographer) you must learn all the rudiments. You must learn Latin, Greek, and you must study endlessly. You must spend years with your craft and you must live your life and mingle your craft with your feelings. On occasion someone is so vulnerable that they can skip a few steps but this is a rare gift from the Gods.

Life must flow in your heart and be regulated by your discipline and craftsmanship.

So I say to the nice lady who wrote me a rather angry letter, that since it took only a few seconds to take a picture (not months or years like a painting) that my pictures are only worth a few hundred of dollars, not the thousands that I charge, it may have taken a few seconds to take the picture, but it took over 60 years to MAKE it.

Thank you. Good night, Good Day and Good Luck.