[Pictures] Ansel Adams Takes On Los Angeles For Fortune Magazine

In the '40's, Ansel Adams took on the job to document Los Angeles for Fortune Magazine. In his own words, “none of the pictures were very good.” However, many oppose his thoughts. Do you feel as though these images reflect his viewpoints?

 "Ansel Adams was famous for his signature series of landscapes, spindling trees, ominous clouds and cliffs, but he also had bills to pay. He had clients. He had assignments. In the ’40s, Fortune Magazine sent him to document Los Angeles’ aviation industry. He shot workers at a steel plant, but also dawdled around LA a bit, snapping oil rigs and boulevards and friends at bowling tournaments, friends at bars, friends staring off at the Santa Monica coastline. He ultimately decided that “none of the pictures were very good,” and donated the photos to the Los Angeles Public Library."

How do you feel about these images, do they come short of what you would expect of Ansel Adams? Or do you feel that his words were definitely not reflective of his results? As artists, we all tend to bring ourselves down from time to time or he may just be being modest.

We'd like to hear your thoughts.

[Via source]


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Mark Micallef's picture

Certainly not the zone system, kind of crooked as well.  

Geoff Lister's picture

Two great images (second and the last images), the rest don't show Adams strengths.

Aputure's picture

These pictures are okay but I would not call them incredible. Agree about the 2nd and last images being the best. 

Marius Manastireanu's picture

As a photographer one, if lucky, can be good on only one genre. It takes years to train your skills, your vision, your goals, your message that you want to send in the world with the photos.
When you are used to see one kind of pictures from someone, seeing something different can be quite odd.Anyway, it's clearly that street photography / photojournalism isn't the field in which he excels, you can say by just looking at it that this series is not a series that came to emphasize his ideas and you can say that it's a 'had to do it' job. However the quality of the photos isn't bad. My favorite: the second one!! :)

btw, if not watched yer, go see the documentary about his life: https://youtu.be/mIN4jccI_qM

Nicholas Gonzalez's picture

I can see in these images that, even in his assignments, his sense of composition was always there, as well as his use of depth of field. The last two are my favorite. I think a master printer should print them again, in a way that Ansel would've preferred, based on his writings. 

Wayne Leone's picture

First and last images are best for me. For the first picture I like that he set the composure based on the angle of the tram line. The last one has great contrast in tone and subject. The rest are not that strong for me.

Alex's picture

I agree on the crooked part, and I can understand where Mr. Adams is coming from.  Landscapes are what he do best and loves to do.  I wouldn't have known that these are his pictures.  They certainly don't look like Ansel Adams photos.

Ghislain Leduc's picture

To me they are good pictures. They report something, I really like the last 2, the Derrick pictures is quite amazing and I love the 3 man sitting and talking on a bench. great one.

Eric Gould's picture

I think the crooked part is perhaps these were hand held. Also Adams was a student of landscape - studying the environment and searching for best time of day or time of year. Clearly he did not know LA like he did Yosemite. These seem rushed both in terms of composition and lighting (time of day). I going to push it further and say that these have none of his classic attention to postposing of creating the "print". I'm guessing if he had a digital back these never would have made the cut. Regardless, Adams could kick my butt any day of the week. The man was a genius.

Thomas Ingersoll's picture

i think for his time they are pretty great.... i mean for today's standards nothing really amazing but its like comparing sports athletes from different eras,you just cant do it. also i mean if he didn't like these shots maybe he wasn't to inspired or interested in the subject matter and didn't put in 100% so the pictures aren't from the heart.

kenton anderson's picture

it's kind of refreshing to see that not every picture he took was amazing. Some of them are very good, but they are by no means equal to his greatest works.  I think we get used to seeing the best work of photographers that we sometimes think every picture is amazing, but in reality everyone is human

Tim Krueger's picture

@twitter-83698532:disqus agreed!  

Edgar Varela's picture

I got a sneak preview of the prints, WOW, these online scans are very bad compared to the silver gelatin prints created by the master printer, the prints are stunning. 60 of the over 200 are being printed for the exhibition.

Bryan Adams's picture

What is the guy in the 5th picture doing with an iPad?

topaz's picture

Your quoted section above came from the excellent Flavorpill Los Angeles blog. Shouldn't you give Flavorpill their due? I recognized these words from Marina Galperina's writeup of this show:



jocrosse's picture

Many of these images included Cole Weston and young bride Dorothy Herrmann. Cole gave up a promising career in the theater and Dorothy turned down an offer to join Martha Graham's dance company to come to L.A. and work in the high-paying aviation industry just prior to WWII. See more at my "Schindlers-Westons-Kasheravoff-Cage and Their Avant-Garde Relationships" at: