A full expression

Kathy and I photograph each other near Parliament Square, London, during springtime in 2001.

Kathy and I photograph each other near Parliament Square, London, springtime 2001.

“A great photograph is a full expression of what one feels about what is being photographed in the deepest sense, and is, thereby, a true expression of what one feels about life in its entirety.”Ansel Adams

This photograph of my friend Kathy, taking photos of me taking photos of her, is not a great photograph from a technical standpoint. It’s a poorly scanned (and here, cropped) digitization of what was originally a Kodachrome transparency. Because it was a typically cloudy, low-light day in London, the depth of field is shallow, resulting in a much better focus on the flowers than on Kathy or the buildings of Parliament Square.

But it’s one of my favorite photos, and meets the definition of “great” as described by Adams, who is perhaps the best known photographer of all time. This photo captures so much that I love about Kathy, especially my happy memories of her joy of taking pictures, which has made her an ideal companion for me on so many ramblings in various cities. She does not grow impatient with my desire to catch just one more angle, one last shot. More than any other person I know, she has my love of photography, and is a diligent archivist of the beauty of everyday life.

What do you love best about your friends? Try to capture that essence in a photograph sometime. For all of the beautiful scenery I’ve been blessed to see and photograph, my very favorite shots are those of loved ones in which their unique personalities shine through. Years later, these photographs are a priceless treasure that never fails to bring a smile to my face. I hope your own treasure chest is filled with many such invaluable delights.

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Chris

    That’s a complex quote, at least for me. I understand the first part, but am vague on how he gets to the second part, the conclusion on life in its entirety. Nevertheless, I like the notion. Photography has always interested me, but the passion that it’s pursued with by the professionals, and some amatuers alike, raises it to the level of a pure art form. And I believe you’re right. Good photos of friends and family are a priceless treasure.
    I know we’ve chatted before about nature, and “critters” in the back yard. This post made me think of Tom Mangelsen, one of the best nature photographers I’ve seen. Here’s a link to his website. https://www.mangelsen.com If you have a chance, read his bio. There’s also a video in which he describes his life as a conservationist, and photographer. His expression of his work really conveys the essence of Adams’ quote (the first part). I think you will enjoy it.
    Have a wonderful day, and weekend!

    • Hi Chris. WOW, checking the date of this comment, I can’t believe it has been ten days since I answered comments. Life has been hectic lately, despite the shutdown (or maybe because of it). I think that the second part of the quote is referring to a general attitude toward life. Note that he doesn’t say a great photograph represents life in its entirety. Rather, the photo is a full expression of how the photographer tends to look at the world. If the subject of the great photograph is being treated with respect, curiosity, affection, wonder, interest, attention, or some combination of all of the above, it’s probably safe to say the photographer lives life that way. I watched the video at the website you linked, under Mangelsen’s bio. It was interesting. Several of the things he said reminded me of Daddy and how we used to kid him about how he would go hunting without really wanting to kill a deer (though he did kill enough of them to furnish the meat he and Mama consumed, both of them believing that consuming wild game was more nutritional as well as more humane). I also like what he said about good photos requiring patience. It’s much harder to take good photos if one is accompanied by those who get impatient with the photographer wanting to capture just the right moment.

Thanks for encouraging others by sharing your thoughts:

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