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ANSEL ADAMS: Classic Images
Saint Francis Church, Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico, c. 1929
To learn more about this photograph see the information below. To see a larger view of this image as an Acrobat Reader PDF file, click on the image...

Saint Francis Church, Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico, c. 1929 by Ansel Adams

This image is copyrighted by The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust and cannot be printed or reproduced in any way. The use of the photograph is limited to viewing in the context of this web site.

 

 

Saint Francis Church, Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico, c. 1929
Plate 32 in Ansel Adams - Classic Images

Main Source: Examples - The Making of 40 Photographs by Ansel Adams, pp 90-93


A. What impressed Adams about this structure?
B. Why was this church included in his book Taos Pueblo?
C. What role did intuition play in this photograph and other by Adams?
D. How did Adams achieve such extraordinary luminosity?
E. Did Adams follow archival procedures?
F. Technical Aspects
G. Related links in this site


A. What impressed Adams about this structure?
When he first saw the church, Adams was impressed by it's "magnificent form" and its "rigorous and simple design and structure." The photograph of this church was shot from the rear, which was the angle that Adams thought made it "one of the great architectural monuments of America." He wrote in Elements, "it is not really large, but it appears immense. The forms are fully functional; the massive rear buttress and the secondary buttress to the left are organically related to the basic masses of adobe, and all together seem an outcropping of the earth rather than merely an object constructed upon it."
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B. Why was this church included in his book Taos Pueblo?
First published in 1930, Taos Pueblo included twelve original prints by Adams and text by Mary Austin. Though this church is not actually in the Pueblo, it held significance for the entire area. Constructed in 1776, it is in the little Mexican American settlement of Ranchos de Taos a few miles south of the Pueblo. It had been interpreted by many painters and photographers, and Adams said he could not resist the challenge.
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C. What role did intuition play in this photograph and other by Adams?
Adams wrote in Elements, "We should never deny the power of intuition or hesitate to follow its revelations... It is essential that the artist trust the mechanisms of both intellect and creative vision. The conscious introspective critical attitude has no place in the luminous moments of creative expression, but should be reserved for later, when the work is complete." He stated, "I seemed to know precisely the square yard of earth on which to place my tripod." He said, "Some intuitive thrust made this picture possible."
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D. How did Adams achieve such extraordinary luminosity?
Adams stated in Elements that "this image is an experience in light." He described how he had used yellow and red filters before in many images in special high-altitude light of the Southwest. "But on this occasion some gentle angel whispered 'no filter' and I obeyed." Taking the shot with no filter allowed the blue sky to appear quite light, and the shadows were softened... A darker sky would have depreciated the feeling of light." He asks a good question himself: "What mechanism of the eye and mind selects patterns and relationships in an unfamiliar world about us and composes them as expressive images?" He doesn't claim to have the answers.
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E. Did Adams follow archival procedures?
Adams chose the highest quality paper and equipment and held to the most rigorous standards of his craft from taking the photograph to making the print. "But," he wrote in Elements, "in those days we were not aware of archival procedures. Countless formulas, many based on bathtub chemistry, and arcane procedures flourished, and a few were effective."
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F. Technical Aspects

  • Camera: 6 1/2 X 8 1/2 Korona View
  • Lens: 8 1/2 inch Tessar-type lens
  • Film: orhochromatic (sensitive only to blue and green light)
  • Filter: none
  • Paper: Dassonville Charcoal Black on mildly textured rag paper of highest quality Developer Amidol


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G. Related links in this site

  • Resources
    • See Bibliography for more material by and about Ansel Adams. For more information on the technical aspects - cameras, films, lenses, filters, darkroom techniques, printing, papers, etc. - please refer to Examples, The Making of 40 Photographs by Ansel Adams (Boston, Toronto, London: Little, Brown and Co, 1983).
  • About Photography
    • See Glossary for definitions of vocabulary words and photographic terms.

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Housatonic Museum of Art
Housatonic Community College
900 Lafayette Blvd.
Bridgeport, CT 06604
For information call Robbin Zella, Director, 203-332-5052