The world of landscape photography has grown exponentially since the transition from film to digital and even more recently with a large social movement to get outdoors. What would your feed look like in 1943?
A man who doesn't need an introduction, Ansel Adams is likely the most famous landscape photographer in history. Not only did he shape the world of landscape photography, he brought the beauty of U.S. national parks to the masses and inspired many people for decades to come. It's a concept that seems almost impossible to fathom in today's world considering we have access to images from nearly everywhere at all times. Imagine if you could go somewhere and take photos of a place the majority of the world has yet to see or what it would be like to experience seeing those places for the first time again.
Where would his work fall in today's societal expectations and constant bombardment of perfect landscapes? The actual answer is impossible to truly find but hypothetically the results are quite eye opening.
In the world of social media there are more than a dozen tips and tricks you can follow in the hopes of grabbing new followers. Let's take a look at how Adams would fare in today's world.
- Black and white feeds are typically much harder to grow.
- Many of his photos are landscape oriented which results in less engagement.
- Doesn't post frequently.
- Many photos would be considered "snapshots" as their true beauty has to be seen in print.
- Lacks engagement with followers because he's too busy taking more photos.
- He's one of a handful of people posting content.
- He's possibly the only person posting outdoor photography.
- No one has ever seen these places before.
- People want an escape from the great depression and war times.
- Who else even has a camera, let alone knows how to use it?
Judging by these lists we could assume Adams wouldn't do very well in today's social media game but if it hypothetically existed in his era he would flourish. So what's the take away here?
To me this image explains everything. Remember that every image he took was deliberate. Requiring film to be loaded, exposure to be calculated, long setup times; no image was a snapshot. Yet to us this looks like a snapshot but back then it was a modern marvel. Taken at the Hoover Dam which had recently been finished, Adams has quite a few images of the transmission and power systems surrounding the area. These are the types of things I would Photoshop out of my images or never even point my camera at. It is fascinating to think that what brought wonder and awe back then is now something we try to keep out of our images today. Adams' feed would be filled with images we wouldn't even notice yet in his era they would make headlines.
I write quite a bit about social media and one of the biggest common themes in the comments is questioning if any of it matters. Does gaining followers actually matter? The long answer is complicated but overall I'd say no unless that's what you truly want. As a photographer you have to decide if you want to take photos and share them or if you want to gain followers and shoot content to do so. Otherwise you'll fall in an endless trap of wondering why an image you cherish didn't get the reception you expected, or you put too much value in your work based on your growth socially. I've been in that pit and it's not easy to get out.
So if you're ever questioning your work because of social media just think about the fact that Adams wouldn't do too well today either and his work is timeless. Maybe it's time we stop focusing on what will gain more "likes" and more on what will become timeless for years to come. What do you think?
All images by Ansel Adams, used under public domain.