Monday, 24 December 2012

Ansel Adams vs Dayanita Singh

Last weekend, I headed over to the National Maritime Museum for their extensive Ansel Adams exhibition.

Ansel Adams was a sickly child who was given a Kodak Brownie camera as a young teenager and immediately displayed a remarkable talent for the relatively new technology of photography. Even his earliest photos reveal an "eye" for taking a superb composition, despite having only the most primitive of cameras.

The exhibition spans a number of different themes of Adams work, spanning static and dynamic views of the countryside, with a distinct emphasis on the grand vista. All of Adams's work is in black and white, and much like Chris Orr, he believes that half of the process of his art is in taking the photo, and half of it is in the printing process. He frequently reprinted prints over the years.

The photos are impressive and the NMM have made a real effort to make the exhibition comprehensive, with a movie of an excellent interview of Adams, books and also user-submitted content inspired by Adams.

You know there's a "but" coming, don't you?

But after all that, the photos themselves left me completely underwhelmed. As impressive and well-composed as they were, I left the exhibition feeling like I'd been looking at someone's holiday snaps. There was no emotion apparent, the photos were simply technically good photos.

Possibly one of the omissions from his photos is the absence of any human element to give scale or emotion to the pictures.

In contrast to this, Dayanita Singh's File Museum exhibition at the Frith Street Gallery is full of humour and humanity, despite the claustrophobic and monotonous subject matter.

Basically, just a collection of snapshots of people at work in a paper archive in India, and yet somehow there's a warmth and variety of texture and tone that was somehow was absent from Adams's work.

So if I had to choose which one to go to, I'd definitely advocate a free visit to the Frith Street Gallery rather than pay to go to the NMM.


Dr Evil said...

Merry Christmas, Obo. Can we have a few more frequent posts? Or are you too busy these days?

Obnoxio The Clown said...

Can't be arsed.