When Photographs Look Like Paintings

We've all heard of paintings that look like a photograph, not a compliment by the way, but how about photographs that look like paintings? I don't claim to know anything about photography but I was at an Ansel Adams exhibit at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art and was amazed at his work and the subtle value changes in his photography.Many of the pieces reminded me of artist's paintings I've long admired.Here is an Adams photograph, Autumn North of Truchas, New Mexico.

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ansel_adams_autumn_north_of_truchas_new_mexico_c_1941_d5662515h
Autumn Oaks
Autumn Oaks

The subtle value changes and the sense of light and atmosphere reminds me a George Inness painting Autumn Oaks. There are similarities in in the shapes but I'm talking about the similarities in atmosphere. I don't have any knowledge of developing photographs but Ansel sure figured it out. I read a little bit about how he manipulated the exposure process to get the effects he wanted. He also shows me, as a painter, that I can achieve a sense of atmosphere and light by working with values and very little color.

In this photograph by Adams ( I don't have the title) the atmosphere reminds me of Thomas Hills' painting of Royal Arches and Half Dome. Same silvery light and atmosphere, even though the Adams is a black and white.

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adamsx
Royal Arches and Halfdome
Royal Arches and Halfdome

In this last photograph, Aspens near Santa Fe, the value changes remind me of an E. Martin Hennings painting Sunlit Aspens. The use of subtle value changes and sense of light on the trees are similar.

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628x471
Aspen Sunlit
Aspen Sunlit

I've never really had an interest in photography until I understood a small amount of what it took to develop the work the way Adams did. I still don't have much interest beyond using it as a tool for painting but I have more respect for good photography.

Ansel Adams: 400 Photographs presents the full spectrum of Adams' work in a single volume for the first time, offering the largest available compilation from his legendary photographic career.

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