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Ansel Adams

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A great photograph is a full expression of what one feels about what is being photographed in the deepest sense, and is, thereby, a true expression of what one feels about life in its entirety.
--
"A Personal Credo" (1943), published in American Annual of Photography (1944), reprinted in Nathan Lyons, editor, Photographers on Photography (1966), reprinted in Vicki Goldberg, editor, Photography in Print: Writings from 1816 to the Present (1988)

 
Ansel Adams

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In order to learn true humility (I use this expression to describe the state of mind under discussion), it is good for a person to withdraw from the turmoil of the world (we see that Christ withdrew when the people wanted to proclaim him king as well as when he had to walk the thorny path), for in life either the depressing or the elevating impression is too dominant for a true balance to come about. Here, of course, individuality is very decisive, for just as almost every philosopher believes he has found the truth, just as almost every poet believes he has reached Mount Parnassus, just so we find on the other hand many who link their lives entirely to another, like a parasite to a plant, live in him, die in him (for example, the Frenchman in relation to Napoleon). But in the heart of nature, where a person, free from life's often nauseating air, breathes more freely, here the soul opens willingly to every noble impression. Here one comes out as nature's master, but he also feels that something higher is manifested in nature, something he must bow down before; he feels a need to surrender to this power that rules it all. (I, of course, would rather not speak of those who see nothing higher in nature than substance — people who really regard heaven as a cheese-dish cover and men as maggots who live inside it.) Here he feels himself great and small at one and the same time, and feels it without going so far as the Fichtean remark (in his Die Bestimmung des Menschen) about a grain of sand constituting the world, a statement not far removed from madness.

 
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When it occurs to a man that nature does not regard him as important, and that she feels she would not maim the universe by disposing of him, he at first wishes to throw bricks at the temple, and he hates deeply the fact that there are no bricks and no temples. Any visible expression of nature would surely be pelleted with his jeers. Then, if there be no tangible thing to hoot he feels, perhaps, the desire to confront a personification and indulge in pleas, bowed to one knee, and with hands supplicant, saying: "Yes, but I love myself." A high cold star on a winter's night is the word he feels that she says to him. Thereafter he knows the pathos of his situation.

 
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I wanted to make the movie feel like life feels to me — and life feels both sad and dark and confusing and more than hopeful — it feels like something totally incredible could happen at any moment and with no explanation.

 
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What Goethe has somewhere said about Hamlet, that in relation to his body his soul was an acorn planted in a flower-pot, which at least breaks the container, is also true of Margaret’s love. Faust is too great for her, and her love must finally break her soul in pieces. And the moment for this soon comes, for Faust doubtless feels that she cannot remain in this immediacy; he does not carry her up in the higher realms of the spirit; for it is from these he flees; he desires her sensually-and abandons her. ... It might seem that it would be more difficult for reflection to be set in motion in Margaret; that which really tends to stop it is the feeling that she was absolutely nothing. And yet there lies in this a tremendous dialectical elasticity. If she were able to hold the thought fast that she was, in the strictest sense of the word, absolutely nothing, then reflection would be excluded, and then she would not have been deceived; for when you are nothing, then there is no relation, and where there is no relation, there can be no talk of a deception. So far she is at peace. However, this thought cannot be held fast, but instantly changes into its opposite. That she was nothing is merely an expression for the fact that all the finite differences of love are negatived, and is therefore the exact expression for the absolute validity of her love, wherein again lies her absolute justification. His conduct is then not merely a deception, but an absolute deception, because her love was absolute. And herein she will again be unable to find rest; for since he has been her all, she will not even be able to hold this thought fast except through him; but she cannot think it through him, because he was a deceiver. As her environment becomes more and more alien to her, the inner movement begins. She has not merely loved Faust with all her soul, but he was her vital force, through him she came into being. This has the effect, while her soul is not less moved than Elvira’s, of making the individual moods less violent. She is on the way to developing a fundamental emotional tone, and the individual mood is like a bubble rising from the deep without strength to maintain itself, which is not so much replaced by a new bubble as it is dissolved in the general mood that she is nothing. This fundamental mood is again a state of mind that is felt, that does not receive expression in any particular outbreak; it is inexpressible, and the attempt that each particular mood makes to give life to it, to raise it up, is in vain. The total mood is therefore constantly present as an undertone of impotence and faintness. The individual mood gives it expression, but it does not soothe, it does not ease, it is-to use an expression of my Swedish Elvira which is certainly very apt, though a man will scarcely feel its full import-like a false sigh which disappoints, and not like a genuine sigh, which is strengthening and beneficial. Nor is the individual mood full-toned and energetic, since her expression is too heavily encumbered.

 
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Between two fantasy alternatives, that Holbein the Younger had lived long enough to have painted Shakespeare or that a prototype of the camera had been invented early enough to have photographed him, most Bardolators would choose the photograph. This is not just because it would presumably show what Shakespeare really looked like, for even if the photograph were faded, barely legible, a brownish shadow, we would probably still prefer it to another glorious Holbein. Having a photograph of Shakespeare would be like having a nail from the True Cross.

 
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