"True communication requires more than just creating an image ... Here is where the study of the human situation is as important — or more so — than the study of photography and art by the photographer."
SIGNED LETTER by Ansel Adams, revealing his philosophy on photography as "true communication."
Written on personal stationery in Los Angeles, CA on October 25th, 1966, Adam’s letter to a Mr. Owing reads:
Dear M[r]. Owing:
I have your letter of the 19th; this can be but a short hasty reply, as I am involved in m[y] University project without let-up!
Your questions are difficult to answer simply! You must first define “abstract”. I think there can be no Abstract photography (ex1/2ect [sic] the Photogram). I prefer to think of the tern [sic] “Extract”. At any event, we can use almost any subject material and—by the way we “see” it and apply techniques we can deviate from “reality” (if we use the term Reality in the accepted sense). The question really is: do we communicate with others, or really just talk to ourselves? I think 95% of contemporary art is simply talking to ourselves; reaffirming the “cult”, or tribal relationships. I personally feel that the expression of subconscious feelings, etc. is only valid when such expression really touches others and contributes something to their understanding. Very little photography does this, I am afraid.
I think you can visualize an image as such; True communication requires more than just creating an image in the minds [sic] eye, and then producing it as a print! No matter what this image means to you, it does not have essential value unless it can create a sense of elevation and comprehension of the realities of the world and of the spirit on the part of the spactator [sic]. Here is where the study of the human situation is as important — or more so — than the study of photography and art by the photographer. We make hundreds of quite remarkable photographers that say precisely nothing of real human importance!
Please write again!
Indeed, true to his philosophy, Adams "sought an intensification and purification of the psychological experience of natural beauty. He created a sense of the sublime magnificence of nature that infused the viewer with the emotional equivalent of wilderness, often more powerful than the actual thing" (William A. Turnage, American National Biography).
(In 1963, Adams received a commission from University of California President Clark Kerr to photograph the UC system in commemoration of the university’s centennial. The resulting collection is titled Fiat Lux and was published in 1967. Fiat Lux is the “University project” Adams refers to in the letter.)
Los Angeles, CA: October 25, 1966. One (7 x 8.5 inches) page. With holograph corrections. An outstanding letter with fascinating content.
Price: $3,500 .