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Ansel Adams (1902–1984)
USA, California, 1969
Polaroid Type 58, 4x5, 13,1 x 10,6 cm
© The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

With his theoretical and aesthetic programme, Ansel Adams, a master of landscape photography and representative of „straight photography“, is counted as one of the most influential figures in artistic photography of the 20th century. Adams was as versatile in technical as in aesthetic matters: Alongside the invention of the Zone System, a ground-breaking method in black and white photography, he published several books on the theory and practice of photography, among them also on Polaroid technique. Compositional precision, balance of tonality and a detailed illustration of reality are the characteristics in Adams’ photography. The Polaroids he took from the 1950s onwards and in which he preferably captured the scenic beauty of Yosemite Valley reflect a visual balance of these qualities.

Adams met Edwin Herbert Land in 1948, and the Polaroid founder engaged him to work as a consultant for the company. Convinced by the revolutionary instant photography and an exceptional quality of material, Adams suggested to have other well-known photographers involved, in order to test the newest film- and camera innovations. By doing so, the foundation for the Polaroid Collection was laid in the 1950s.

For his picture “Vineyard”, Adams used a 4x5 inch sheet film of Type 58. This small format film was made as singular sheets inserted into a Polaroid-camera back, which could be exposed by any normal big format camera. Apart from its simple handling, this material is characterized by its high-quality colour results.
The 1969 motif of a vineyard can be read as a compacted document of beauty in the Californian countryside. The slightly dimmed light atmosphere supports a denseness of composition which features a spile in the centre. The chromaticities of the blue of ripe grapes as well as the green and yellow of wine leaves are accentuated by the refined colours of Polaroid Type 58. The closeness of composition is captured by the compactness of instant photography.

Johanna Pröll, © WestLicht

Lit: Ansel Adams, Polaroid Land Photography, Boston 1980; Barbara Hitchcock, Als Land auf Adams traf, in: The Polaroid Book. Selections from the Polaroid Collections of Photography, ed. Steve Crist, Köln et al. 2008, p. 18-20.