Thursday 19 February 2009

Ansel Adams and Richard Mabey

As Bryan notes, today is Gordon Brown's birthday - but it is also the birthday of two men infinitely more deserving of celebration: Ansel Adams (born 1902) and Richard Mabey (born 1941). Adams's photographs have a depth and epic grandeur that seems to elevate them above and beyond their medium, though their essence is a perfect observation, understanding and expression of what light does to landscape - that's photography: light drawing - though in Adams's case, it's more like light painting. You could say he's the Vermeer of the American wilderness, though you'd probably be wiser not to, I don't know...
We know where we are with Richard Mabey, who is simply the best living practitioner of a genre the British have excelled at ever since Gilbert White (or, in a broader sense, ever since Chaucer) - nature writing. His magnum opus, Flora Britannica, is one of the great living monuments of that tradition, truly a book that no home should be without. And his brave, lucid account of recovering from severe depression, Nature Cure, is a must-read, not least for its hard-won insights into the vital relationship between man and nature (I'd also recommend one of his more easily missed works, Fencing Paradise, inspired by Cornwall's Eden Project).
Adams' and Mabey's works could hardly be more different - there is litte grandeur in Mabey, little specificity in Adams - and yet they are products of the same creative, and salutary, process: Staying still and looking hard at what is there.


  1. Bryan was celebrating symmetry recently and your piece is a quiet example of it, starting with Broon, and closing with a phrase that, even now, we would wish that he understood more than he seems to: staying still and looking hard at what is there.

  2. Thanks for the reminder Nige, I seem to have spent an awfull lot of my leisure time over the past 25 years attempting to emulate Ansel Adams, with mixed results. He must rate as one of the greatest landscape photographers of all time, in particular his work in Yosemite is amazing, it's only a camera after all.