Two visits to London in one weekend! How lucky am I?!
On Easter Sunday we went up to Greenwich, which is only about 30 minutes drive away and therefore within much easier reach than the West End. Greenwich always seems colder to me than the rest of London. Maybe that’s because it’s right there on the Thames, maybe its because I only ever seem to go there when it’s cold. But London and indeed the UK is still in the grip of an extended winter and it was gently snowing, so we went to the Ansel Adams exhibition at the Royal Maritime Museum.
I first came across Ansel Adams when I was visiting Yosemite National Park in California about a decade ago. Ansel was from San Francisco and took a great number of photographs of Yosemite, San Francisco, Monterey and Carmel; all places I have visited, so it was interesting for me to see these pictures. Anyway, a decade ago, there was an Ansel Adams exhibition at Yosemite and I spent a lot of time there studying the photographs. They were in black and white and very striking, capturing the beauty of Yosemite perfectly. I’m in awe of his talent in finding an unusual angle or abstract composition, leading me to study the photo closely, instead of looking and moving on as I might with other exhibitions.
The photo which most grabbed my attention was one taken in 1932 of San Francisco Bay before the building of the Golden Gate Bridge in 1933. I’ve been in love with San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge since doing a project on the area when I was at primary school, about 35 years ago. I’ve visited the very spot from which the photograph was taken, I know the view fairly well. So to see a photograph of the area before the bridge was built was very arresting.
There was a small room set aside with video tape on a constant loop, showing an interview with Ansel Adams in the 1980s and a documentary of him made after his death. It showed Ansel as a man with a great sense of humour, charismatic and interesting company. He talked about bracketing, which as I understand it, is a technique where you take three photos in quick succession, one under-exposed, one correctly exposed and one over-exposed, so that you can pick the best one (remember these were the days before digital technology). Ansel was of the opinion that if you employed this technique, you really didn’t know what you were doing, but he said it in such a self effacing way, and with such a twinkle in his eye, that no one could have been offended, and it raised a huge laugh within the auditorium.
I wish my house was big enough to hang at least a triptych of his work. Stunning doesn’t even begin to cover it.