As often is the case, there isn’t a more widely discussed topic between photographers than about history’s most famous photographers. Artists tend to shy away from “best” comparisons but acknowledgement and appreciation for the giants in the industry is both entertaining and inspiring. When I think of the world’s most influential famous photographers I gravitate toward two remarkable figures from the past: Ansel Adams and Julius Shulman. In both I find a wealth of talent and vision and have throughout my career drawn on the techniques of both men in honing my skills and ascending to my current level of expertise. Ansel Adams
There isn’t a more preeminent figure among famous photographers in the history of the field than Ansel Adams. From dedicated professional photographers to casual photography aficionados to ordinary people, just about everyone has seen and admired the astounding portfolio of this world-renowned artist. Adams has achieved iconic status based on his signature black and white landscapes that seem to uniquely capture the environment in ways most other professional photographers struggle to duplicate. Ansel Adams often dominates the conversation of famous photographers due to his ability to affect the contemporary medium decades after his death in 1984.
While most people associate Adams with black and white landscape shots, Adams did work with both color prints as well as portraits and architecture. His affinity with black and white images was by design rather than a factor of the era of his most prolific work. Color, to Ansel Adams, could serve as a distraction from the meaning of the shot. To him, limiting the prints to black and white meant that he was free to use large format cameras to produce high resolution images with grandeur and sharpness that color often made more elusive to portray.
Shulman was an accomplished architectural photographer from whom I obviously draw a great deal of inspiration. Not only am I drawn to his style and favorite choice of subjects, his California roots allow me to occasionally imagine how he viewed the very same landscape and sky patterns that I capture in my own photos today while pondering how he’d interpret the scene for the best shot possible.
One particular way I aim to emulate the genius of Julius Schulman and honor him among the most famous photographers in history is in the way he appreciated and put to great use the natural landscape surrounding his architectural targets. You can quickly tell from my work that I value the opportunity to frame each structure with the ambient terrain and sky. The photographs I’m most proud of are those that accentuate the architecture by utilizing the natural light and surrounding features to give each image a character all its own. A point of great concern for me, and an emphasis that Julius Schulman paid particular attention to, are the ways in which an architectural work of art fits within the landscape it’s built. Capturing this relationship is important to telling the full story of the subject and gives depth to the scene that would otherwise be left untold and unexamined by focusing too heavily on the steel and stone of the buildings alone.