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Which would you prefer?
Which would you prefer – An Ansel Adams original print or a negative? I came across this thread on DPReview and appreciate and agree with these viewpoints.


These comments are very relevant today with the universal use of digital cameras and Photoshop. The saying that “photographs never lie” is not true. It is the opposite. In the past darkroom techniques such as, cropping, burning, dodging, masking, retouching where commonly use to manipulate photographic images. In most cases this was done by the photographer to enhance the photo, not to deceive. In fact, taking the photo was only half of the job, the processing and printing was an equally important second part to complete an image. So from the start of photography, photographs have been manipulated. For many years now the darkroom has been replaced by the desktop computer and Photoshop. While the image capturing tools and process has changed, the photographer’s goal has not. Taking a digital photo is still the first step in producing an image, followed by post processing and printing. So to answer the above question – Would I prefer an original Adams print over a negative - absolutely!

The thread below is quoted from DPReview:

Rsn48 wrote: “Even if the negatives are Ansel's work, they aren't that valuable, I know I'm one of the few, if only on the planet to think this, my reason is simple. Ansel often bragged about how much time he would put in the darkroom to bring a negative to live in a print. Ansel was really one of the original photoshop freaks of his day. His prints were more about the darkroom than about the negative; he'd burn this, dodge that, etc. Ansel was about creating a "feeling" about his images, the drama of the sky [which on print may have not been dramatic], the tones of the mountain as it recedes into the valley, etc. Owning an Ansel negative is kind of like discovering all the paint tubes Picasso used.”

Jon Rty wrote: “Well, that's oversimplifying it a bit. As I've understood it Adams went to great lengths to ensure the best possible result he could get. This of course included much work in the darkroom, but also incredible care and technique when exposing and processing his film. Developing individual sheets based on notes he made while taking then, the zone system and what not. He is one of the best known early craft masters, but that didn't include only the darkroom. And then there's the fact that he had a great eye as well.”

Rsn48 wrote: “Ansel was no doubt an excellent photographer and I'm sure great care and creativity went into the negative, but the negative was the starting point, not the end point. So let’s say I have in my trunk a rare Ansel negative a famous mountain in California and I get it developed by professional developers here in Vancouver BC, I still won't have an Ansel print. The pro's I'd employ wouldn't know Ansel's intent for that negative, to evolve the image into one of his prints.”
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