One with Beauty-Remembering Ansel Adams

“I believe in beauty. I believe in stones and water, air and soil, people and their future and their fate.” This was the personal philosophy of the great American photographer Ansel Adams whose birthday falls on February 20. He developed the zone system, a way to determine proper exposure and adjust the contrast of the final print. 

My photography teacher of School of Fototechnik Delhi, Mr.Tirtha Das Gupta,(TDG) LRPS, tells that there are three things in the modern world which one has to know if one has to survive. Cooking (he is not married), driving and the third one-an obvious answer coming from a great photographer-Photography.

When I joined his course(Sep 2005)  I thought the third one-Photography- was a bit of an exaggeration. We can all survive in the modern world without photography. That is what I thought when I first heard this from TDG, sitting in his school of photography at Bhogal, New Delhi, waiting for the first lecture to start.

That was when I first heard of Ansel Adams, one of the pioneers of photography. Over the years I have realized that photography is a very useful way to grow as a human being, to not live a mechanical ‘animal’ existence, to refine one’s tastes and to be one with Beauty. 


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Over the years, I have had the good fortune of knowing some masters first hand (they are not all famous-but that does not diminish them as artists) and also studied the works of some great photographers. One of them, studying whose work, approach to human life and the planet helped expand my own horizons beyond the office-to-house-house-to-office world, is Ansel Adams.



There was a phase when Ansel Adams was deciding whether to become a musician or a photographer. His interactions with the photographer Paul Strand made him decide decisively towards photography.

Most creative people are strongly humanistic. Artists must be free to create and offer the products of their imagination and emotion to the world. They resent the restrictions of the unimaginative-the impulse to take, consume and produce little except material things, and to profit thereby. 

Strand took active interest in the American Communist movement during the 1930s. His teacher at New York’s Ethical Culture School had been Lewis Hine, the great photographer who documented America’s new immigrants earlier in the century. Paul, following the lead of Hine and many other New York artists, was what is termed “leftist-leaning.” Paul fervently believed that pure socialism was the best hope for mankind.

The happy and optimistic Paul that Ansel Adams first knew in the 1930s became morose because he no longer believed in a healthy future for America, Strand moved to France in 1949. He chose not to live and work under the impending fascism toward which he believed America was headed. Luckily, he escaped the witch trials led by Joseph McCarthy that horribly scarred the lives of many American artists 



A Long Shot-TDG and Amit Gangal

Ansel Adams was associated with leading artists, critics and was one of the founders of the Conversation movement, long before anyone had heard today’s vociferous debates about Global warming. In this sphere too, just as in the case of the impending disastrous policies which they foresaw, they had anticipated by several decades the coming decline.

In his association with the critic Beaumont Newhall with whom he  established the first ever Department of Photography in the Museum of Modern Art he began to see how the reconstruction of a work of art in terms of its time, its development and function, and its relations to the history of art became in a very positive way, a creative expression in itself. In this too there is a lesson for all, in whatever walk of life we engage in. 

He ends his Autobiography with the following words-talking about the human spirit.

The only things in my life that compatibly exist with this grand universe are the creative works of the human spirit. After eighty years, I scan a long perspective. I think of a mantra of Gaelic origin given me fifty years ago by Ella Young. It echoes everything I believe:


          I know that I am one with beauty

          And that my comrades are one   

          Let our souls be mountains,

          Let our spirits be stars,

          Let our hearts be worlds.

The apprehensions of the great photographer Paul Strand who had an important influence on Ansel Adams at a decisive phase of this artistic career are probably truer today. With these lines of thinking it does not take much guessing to know what artists like Paul Strand or Ansel Adams would have said about the present day American policies. They had foreseen this impending doom by decades. Artists have a higher sensitivity.










Notes and Suggested Further reading:




2. Autobiography of Ansel Adams.



About prashant bhatt

A psychologist, interested in mindfulness practices. I practiced medicine as a radiologist for 23 years in India and Libya as a radiologist before shifting to Canada. A regular diarist, journaling since 1983 Reading journal :
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5 Responses to One with Beauty-Remembering Ansel Adams

  1. santhosh says:

    wow … sir you are amazing and taking us to nice tour with free of cost thank u

    • Glad that you liked it, may you have many such journeys, and send me back some photographs- notes…that will be the pay-back my friend.

      Living in Libya has its ups and downs, but this place is rich in history, culture and what you can see from here- Mediterranean- the cradle of many civilizations, will enrich you in many ways.

  2. Dr.V.Sridhar says:

    Hi Prashant, Greetings . I never knew you had photography training from the masters.Pleasant surprise. No doubt all your photos are of professional grade. This blog was a great treat to me. I enjoyed .Thanks for the thoughts on this blog.One thing I tell you, always there is something to learn from your articles.Keep going and keep postings.

    • Dear Sridhar… Thanks for the encouragement. Hope all well

      Do join a photography group.
      Like School of Fototechnik.

      There are many talented souls who are ever ready to share their knowledge.

  3. Pingback: Struggles and Confessions-Notes from a Reading Journal-2018 | grace readings

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