The Ansel Adams Spin on Creative Commons

Here it is, Easter Sunday afternoon and I’m getting caught up on a number of less urgent photography related items (office work, adding backlogged quotes to the quote archive, catching up on some reading). Ok…honestly I’m procrastinating working on Taxes…

I was reading a few features from Bill Jay’s Album featured in the latest issue of LensWork. Jay has a wonderful portrait snapshot that he took of Ansel Adams and retails some of his time spent with Adams. I found it a bit surprising to learn that Adams wanted young photographers, after his death, to be able to borrow his negatives and attempt to emulate his results in an effort to learn the craft of fine printmaking. Something I had not heard of before.

In some ways, Adams was talking about a creative commons license to his work. Maybe a bit more restrictive than today’s licenses since in his view the goal was to learn by emulating versus creating something new based off of his work. But I find this interesting non the less.

In his article, I read it that Jay is glad that the Center for Creative Photography, the holder of Adams’ negative repository, has “wisely never encouraged”. Granted, I wouldn’t encourage the use of the original negatives of Adams’ to do this with, but considering the limited number of people that are left with direct experience in making these iconic prints, it might not be a bad idea to reconsider. A way of retaining the learnings of a master of our photographic times.

It’s an interesting thought that Jay has sparked…

PS: The excerpt from Bill Jay’s latest book puts it at the top of my photography book shopping list. What a great collection of moments about the photographers that we may (or may not) know so well through their work. Based upon the excerpts it almost seems like a wonderful history modern day photography through his personal connections and understandings of the photographers of that era. Not only understand their work, but their background and describing (as well as you can in a few pages) how their background influenced their work.

Thanks for taking the time to put this work together Bill!

One Reply to “The Ansel Adams Spin on Creative Commons”

  1. It would be an interesting project – to allow a group of photographers to produce prints from an original Adams negative. I am sure it would produce all sorts of creative interpretations.


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