It’s a Matter of Interpretation

Art is a strange land, filled with odd characters and personalities, gregarious party animals, solitary monks, the generous and stingy, and sometimes down right creepy. I have often said, it does not bother me fools on the road, but me amongst ’em. I have been called weird more than once, but I long ago accepted the label, and I rejoice in it. If God wired me weirdly, well, go talk to him about it while I enjoy it.

As a matter of legacy, two photographers come to mind, one famously generous and gracious, the other notoriously arrogant and worldly; that is, Ansel Adams, of the former, more gentle reputation, and Brett Weston of the latter. I am speaking of what they decided to do with their large collection of photographs and negatives when it came time to “shuffle off this mortal coil,” so to speak.

Brett Weston was the son of the equally talented, if not more famous Edward Weston, of the classic West Coast Photography school of ultra-sharp, large format photographs. Brett had very strong feelings regarding his negatives, and threatened to destroy them. Well, it happened. On his 80th birthday, in front of friends and family he burned his original film negatives, and the news was greeted with much sadness by many other artists and patrons who had supported him. He said that his prints were his legacy, not his negatives.

On the other hand, Ansel Adams decided to donate his negatives to the University of Arizona. He said that the negatives were like the original score of a piece of music and that they should be open to interpretation by subsequent generations of photographers. And yes, you can go to the University of Arizona and check out digital scans of an Adams negative in order to print it yourself, if you have the right credentials. Even in the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite National Park, you can purchase Adams prints, but printed by another photographer. I have one of Vernal Fall hanging on my wall today, that was printed by photographer Alan Ross. His “performance” as Adams called it, is different, a higher contrast and darker image than Adams original print. Adams himself printed his negatives differently over the years. Thus his earlier prints will sometimes command higher prices than his later prints of the same negative. I could not afford an Adams original, so I bought the special edition print because I had climbed to the top of Vernal Fall in the spring, when it looked much like it does in the print, except I climbed it in color.

And I enter the picture. I don’t care about the fame, just the fun. Musicians do it. Artists do it. Ansel Adams did it. So I can do it. That is, I can reinterpret an image in an almost infinite number of ways and in very rapid succession using Adobe Lightroom (Lr). I’m going to give you three examples of Sweetwater Creek, from a single digital image, taken from a view I just really enjoy. I use Adobe Lightroom and Creative Cloud to manage my serious images; by serious, I mean the ones I try to sell as art and those I upload to stock agencies. Adobe Lightroom allows me to duplicate images and try out different tools. So here ya go. Which do you prefer? For me, it’s just how I interpret it.


~ by Bill on February 16, 2021.

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