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What would Ansel say?
on December 8, 2011
Ever since the Ansel Adams Trust quit printing the late photographer's images with the Southern California-based lithography company, Gardner Lithograph, the image quality of Mr. Adams's photographs has suffered a bit. Adams began working with Mr. David Gardner more than 40 years ago. When Adams came to the press checks for his books, posters and calendars, each sheet coming off the old Heidelberg presses had to match his darkroom prints flawlessly. They had to hold all of the highlight and shadow detail meticulously. Thus, Gardner and Adams kept a close relationship until Adams's death. Since the Trust opted for higher profits, comparisons between the original lithography produced by Gardner and more recent publications are sadly astonishing.
While most people would never see the differences between the original Gardner-produced publications (for Little, Brown) and the reprints of today, photographers with experience shooting and printing in black and white film will not be fooled. I'm glad that Adams's talent continues to be revered in the world of fine art photography. I just wish the Trust leadership team cared for the quality of the printing as it did years ago. David Gardner, prior to his recent retirement, has been printing books for some of the world's most revered photographers for more than 45 years including Dorothea Lange, Brett Weston and many others. His legacy, and his team, continue on with Dual Graphics in Brea, CA. If you can find a copy of "Odyssey," a collection of photos spanning more than 100 years from the National Geographic archives, buy it. This is a fine legacy of David Gardner's genius and the team of artisans he trained. Hunt down older books and posters of Adams as collectables.