PBS Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams by Ric Burns

I’ve just watched, or more accurately re-watched the PBS film by Ric Burns. I like and admire the documentary work or both of the “Burns Brothers”. I also have his brother Ken’s documentaries about the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, and Frank Lloyd Wright. All in my humble opinion examples of the perfect documentary. In this case the art of Ric Burns is combined with that of Ansel Adams’.

This production starts with an on camera introduction by John Szarkowski, this alone brought a tear to my eye, and was so brilliant -I instantly re-wound it to see and listen to it again! The film then continues to tell a fairly linear narration of Ansel’s life, which also includes contributions from both his son and daughter. Of course it also is full of his photographs, some clips of him in action, and clips from the odd interview over the years. This is combined with contributions from some of his collaborators, notably William Turnage, managing director of the Ansel Adams Trust.

To list the achievements of Ansel would need a book rather than a post, suffice to say that he, perfected the Zone System, helped found Group f64, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honour in the US, wrote at least five books and contributed to scores more. Could play the piano to concert pianist level, and not least was a conservationist and teacher. What a man!

This film brings all these things to life, and combines it with his best images.

Adams died on April 22nd 1984, wiki states that his ashes are spread on the top of Half Dome in Yosemite, I am sure I remember correctly that in the film his son recounts that they were spread atop Mt Adams, the highest peak in the Ansel Adams wilderness – either is fitting. This production matches the achievements of others by the “brothers” and is highly recommended. If you have even a passing interest in Ansel Adams, my recommendation is to seek out a copy – if it’s broadcast… set the recorder, you will want to watch it again!!

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