Monolith The Face Of Half Dome Analysis

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Ansel Adams was an American photographer well-known for his black and white landscape photography. His work was based around the American West and national parks as he was a keen environmentalist. Some of his most famous work was that of the photographs taken at Yosemite National Park. His work is based more towards the sublime due to the nature of the landscapes he photographs such as mountains, cliffs, raging rivers etc. In the introduction to Adams’ book: The Portfolios of Ansel Adams, John Szarkowski writes, “Adams’ pictures seem as dematerialized as the reflections on still water, or the shadows cast on morning mist.” (Adams, A., 1977. p. 8). This suggests that Adams images are sublime as his focus was more on the meaning of the landscape…show more content…
One of his images, Monolith, the Face of Half Dome (Figure 3), is one of his most famous images which uses the sublime. This image is a high contrast image created using a red filter to create the darker areas in the sky and cliff face. To take this image Adams had to climb 4000 feet to an overhanging rock where he could get this shot. It is seen as a sublime image because it gives the viewer feelings of magnitude, intimidation and power from the sheer mass and size of the granite cliff. The tonality of this image also gives it a sublime look as the dark tones of the sky and cliff connote fear and power. The sheer size comparison between the trees at the foot of the cliff and the cliff itself gives a sense of self mortality and finiteness in comparison to the enormous cliff that has killed climbers before. In relation to John Szarkowski’s formal elements, Adams has used the frame to create a sublime composition where the subject takes up most of the frame. He has also time to create this perfect exposure. The Time element is about shutter speeds which is the duration of time the shutter is open for, therefore how long the film, plate or sensor is exposed to light. In Adams case, his shutter speed for this image was 5…show more content…
I believe that to some extent, the picturesque and the sublime can be subjective to different people as they experience different things which can trigger emotions that others may not have/ experienced. In an online report about the philosophy of art by Andrea Borghini, he says that the sublime is, “a transformative experience typically associated with some negative pleasure and elicited by the encounter of an object or situation.” To me this says that to encounter the sublime, one has to encounter this ‘transformative experience’ from an object or situation. An example would be the sea and the sky, where if the sea is rough and the sky is dark with clouds, it can give the idea of the sublime as it is ‘negative pleasure’. Whereas if the sea was calm and the sky was clear blue and sunny, it would give rise to feelings of the beautiful, leading to ideas of the picturesque. However, if one does not or has not had this ‘transformative experience’ then their interpretation of the scene will be different to those who have experienced it. In some cases, some may view a ‘typical’ sublime scene as a beautiful/ picturesque one as beauty is subjective to different people meaning that feelings from the beautiful, picturesque and sublime can be subjective to different
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