A few weeks ago I, along with a couple of friends, went to an Ansel Adams exhibit at the Holter Museum of Art in Helena, Montana. The exhibit, entitled Ansel Adams: A Legacy, was quite comprehensive, including more than 100 prints, some famous, some I have never seen before. It was beautifully laid out and, despite the lighting in the main hall being a bit too flat, was almost overwhelming upon first sight. It was a wonderful exhibit which was incredibly inspiring for a couple of very important reasons. First, Ansel’s vision was amazing, and his prints, some more than 50-years-old, were spectacular in their tonality and presentation (I do not mean framing). One cannot help but be inspired by such insightful vision and artistry.
The second reason I was so inspired was that I discovered that not all of his photographs were perfect. As beautiful as they were, some showed attempts to spot out dust, others perhaps slightly uneven development, and a couple had less than ideal depth of field. As the small reproductions I had seen so often in books and magazines looked PERFECT, I was a bit taken aback. I mean, it’s not the first time I had ever seen Ansel’s work, but it has been many years and I was a different photographer back then. This time, I studied each print longer with more depth of thought and attention. While viewing one of the large prints, it hit me….Ansel Adams, a man many, including myself, have elevated to the level of demigod, was not perfect. There were chinks in his armor. The slight feeling of unworthiness and discouragement I had felt upon entering the gallery subsided. Ansel wasn’t perfect. I mean, it’s not like I thought he really WAS perfect – who is? – but I was witnessing his imperfection, first hand, and it was liberating. Because if Ansel, as amazing as he was, was not perfect, and I sure as hell ain’t perfect, then he and I share a common bond. And what could be more inspiring?