Ansel Adams on the Miracle of the Creative Process

Ansel Adams The Tetons and the Snake River (1942) Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the National Park Service. (79-AAG-1)

What is the creative process involved? How can I--or any photographer--impart to the spectator not only information, but the experience? The Esthetician, the Historian, the Technician, the Psychologist (and lately, the Psychiatrist) will have convincing explanations. I think the miracle of the creative process evades all analysis. With complete deference to the various sources of critical wisdom, I feel that instinct, intuition, and experience combine in fearful and wonderful ways to create the instantaneous assertion of the spirit. Armed with creative ambitions, with or without a tangible objective, we face the world about us. We recognize the potential of a situation and thereupon we visualize the statement we will make through our lens. Thoroughly complex, and resolved within unconscious areas of our mind, the visualized statement, or image, calls upon our resource of craft for expression in tangible values. So rapid is this process that it assumes the quality of the inevitable; no computer can approach the dextrous inclusiveness of the human mind and imagination. Anyone who has watched Edward Weston walk casually among the complexities of Death Valley, carrying his 8x10 camera over his shoulder, will recall how he might pause a moment, then turn towards a particular spot and set up the tripod--rarely moving it an inch from its first position. The photograph to be made was clearly defined: visualized, in his mind. When a photographer must fuss with his point-of-view, he should realize his visualization is insecure.

Ansel Adams, "A photographer talks about his art." Los Angeles: Occidental College, 1969.