Ansel Adams on Photographic Education

This week I came across a brilliant article by the great Ansel Adams, both a photographer, a theorist of photography and a committed environmentalist, which was originally published in the third issue of the celebrated Aperture Magazine. In this article Ansel Adams discusses his vision for the perfect education of a master photographer and mentions the following 10 important aspects:

  1. Adequate general education, preferably at college level, with emphasis on the Humanities.
  2. Ample photographic theory and technique.
  3. Comprehensive studies in philosophy, aesthetics, history and semantics of photography (and art in general).
  4. Project problems. These would be at first purely exemplary projects. Then would come explorations of various professional fields, such as reportage, Documentation, Advertising and Publicity, Illustration and photography applied to Display and Decoration.
  5. Cooperative problems; combining photography with other arts and crafts, using photography with type (both in the sense of meaning and in the sense of design) and in specific educational fields.
  6. Problems in the reproduction processes; the ‘follow-through’ with engraver and printer.
  7. Personal-creative problems; the proper balance of subjective and objective attitudes. The ‘fine print’ as an object in itself.
  8. Experience in other arts. The student.. ‘must have an extensive knowledge of colour – both mechanical, in reference to the colour processes, and esthetic, in relation to colour photography.
  9. Criticism. The ability to evaluate one’s own work and the work of others on a plane of logic and balanced judgement is invaluable to the practicing artist.
  10. Community effort. The relationship of the photographer to his environment, cooperation with Museums, and interest in, and contributions to, related organizations.

It is absolutely remarkable how many of these elements are present in my current MA Photography course. Simply brilliant!


Bunnell, P., ed. (2012) Aperture Magazine Anthology. The Minor White Years 1952-1976, Aperture, 455 pp.


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