You learn something new every day. Or, if you start out knowing very little, like me, you can learn two new things a day.
Two things I learned today: The New York Graphic Society (NYGS)'s Ansel Adams: 400 Photographs and Ansel Adams in Color are in fact companion volumes. The former is much thicker, but they're the same height and width, and have similar white dust jackets over white bindings decorated similarly with pictures. They go together. Make a matching pair. Didn't know.
I also completely missed the fact that my personal favorite Ansel Adams book, The Portfolios of Ansel Adams, was reissued in paperback in 2006. (I've had the book since forever, if that's any excuse.) And now the second edition of the reissue is out. I didn't notice when that happened either.
Now I know.
We've discussed in the past that different people work most comfortably in different forms; some people think in terms of books, some people think in terms of single images, others extended essays, or exhibits framed and hung in gallery spaces, or magazine features. (People will ask me what form I work in, and I'll be forced to say "great motley heaps of crap piled in odd and provisional corners of my house, such that I cannot find a single [expletive deleted] thing that I am looking for when I need it." That's the form I work in. Apparently.) Anyway I think Ansel worked most naturally in portfolios. He created and marketed portfolios all his life, and all his portfolios have a modulated quality, balancing variety and consistency. He seems (to my reading of his work anyway) to have been most comfortable with small sets of original works rendered elegantly and luxuriously. The Portfolios of... is not his most major book, but it's the one that gives us a window into his own thinking about his pictures through his personal editing of them, and it's his most interesting book in my view.
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Original contents copyright 2010 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Carsten Bockermann: "I bought The Portfolios of Ansel Adams on my first visit to the U.S. It was back in 1982, I was 16 at the time. The lady in a little bookstore in Carmel said 'oh, that's too bad, you just missed Mr. Adams. He left a few minutes ago and went to the barber shop.' Needless to say I found out where the barber shop was and got my copy signed right there, in the barber's chair."
Featured Comment by Geoff Wittig: "Portfolios is a wonderful book for a number of reasons. It shows the text for each portfolio, including colophons, and even reproduces the actual typefaces used. This is great for 'type dorks' and book collectors like myself; you can see the exact presentation Adams was aiming for. Fortunately for him, San Francisco was (and still is) home to America's largest concentration of fine art book printers. The early portfolios were printed by the esteemed Grabhorn brothers; most of the later examples were designed and typeset by Adrian Wilson, another widely admired book printer.
"The evolution of Ansel Adams' portfolios as displayed in the book to some extent paralleled his artistic development over time. As John Szarkowski pointed out, the early portfolios contained mostly new work, while subsequent portfolios included an ever greater proportion of older images. Either teaching and writing left insufficient time or his muse had fled, but Adams' output of artistically worthy negatives declined precipitously after about 1950."