All photography needs to be evaluated from within the context of the technology that was available when it was created.
Much like paintings, as well as the written word in books, poetry and music, photography can and often will live on beyond the time here for the one who created the image. Whether the images live on as metal plates, negatives, transparencies, books, calendars, prints, or in the form of jpgs and other yet to be created digital formats, and are shared on the internet or otherwise, they can and do have a life of their own. Below are some examples. I could have easily including 100 photos, but most are only obtained (without money) in tiny, itsy bitsy files. So I found a few and I will share them here. All of these photographers have one thing in common. They are deceased, but their work still has a life.
Mathew Brady was likely America’s first famous photographer. He is best known for hefting his large format view camera along with large metal photographic plates, around the American south and east, in order to capture the bravery, the human story, and the sickening violence and compromise of human life, during our war between the states. At times he was on the battle field with the soldiers. He is I am sure best known for his images of the physical damage left behind.
I have viewed dozens of his images, but alas I found only a few royalty free pictures in which the digital file was large enough to share with others on this blog.
Dorothea Lange, was America’s first famous female photographer. She, along with photographer Walker Evans, are best known for their powerful images of the human condition, both good and bad. Their heyday if you will, was during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. Their photos are legendary but Lange’s close-up and personal visions of those caught in the Dust Bowl, are known worldwide.
In my opinion, Ansel Adam’s name and his work, will be with mankind for as long as we exist here as we are. He is simply the best known and studied photographer ever. Ansel photographed everything and anything, in both black and white and color, but will always be best know for his black and white naturescapes. There was nobody who could “read a negative” like Adams. He often said that when he worked with a great negative in the darkroom, he could “hear the music” it made.
Galen Rowell is sort of the color version of Ansel. Many years ago he and his wife who was his pilot, died in a plane crash in California. While Galen photographed many subjects including wildlife, nature macros, architecture as well as mountaineering and people in general, he will always be best known his colorful landscapes. I was privileged to attend a slide show presentation from him in Chicago many years ago. It was an honor.
We can’t all be an Ansel Adams or a Dorothea Lange. The best we can hope for is to be who we are, and leave behind for others what we did. Photography of all sorts, is a way to leave a piece of ourselves behind when we leave this place, as we know it.
The images below are randomly (as usual) selected photos of mine. They will never have the “shelf life” or the power of those I have shared with you above. They probably should not be on the same page as they are. Just the same, who we are or have been is always reflected in the images we create, so I share them with you.