This is a collection of magnificent pictures by America's premiere photographer, sadly marred by the pretentious twaddle of a chronic kicker from Tucson who faults everyone in the Southwest except his own redeeming presence.
It's beautiful work by Ansel Adams, well worth whatever you pay for the book. The pretentious twaddle by Lawrence Clark Powell is typical Tucson, people who manage to find fault with everything.
First, the pictures. Photography was part of my job for years, and I have visited probably half of the places included in this book. For example, consider the picture of White House Ruin in Canyon de Chelly, taken in 1942. I've taken dozens of photos of it, and hiked every foot in the vicinity. Nothing of mine comes close to the mastery of Adams beautiful black-and-white photograph. I suspect that even if I copied his picture as precisely as possible, mine would still look dull in comparison to his artistry.
Adams' mastery of the camera and the art of making prints is such that even in black-and-white, his pictures sparkle with a luminosity that puts color to shame. In recent years newspapers have wasted a great effort on color pictures. Adams' work shows how superior the old black-and-white photos could be in comparison to modern newspaper color. Any photo editor would weep to have such quality today. More's the pity the newspapers do not emphasize quality instead of glitzy novelty.
It's more than a book about the Southwest; it's a book about how to see nature and the world around us. Adams had an eye for natural beauty. I've no doubt he could find beauty and art even in a junk yard. He knew what to include in a picture, and how much to leave out, and the precise moment when it all came together. His pictures of cacti, aspens, rocks and adobe structures will cause anyone to look again and more closely at their surroundings, to appreciate the beauty of detail in a grander setting.
Sadly, the words fall far short of the pictures. Fifty years ago, Joseph Wood Krutch wrote in praise of the Southwest, "the combination of brilliant sun and high, thin, dry air with a seemingly limitless expanse of sky and earth [that] my first reaction was delighted amusement. How far the ribbon of road beckoned ahead! How endlessly much there seemed to be of the majestically rolling expanse of bare earth dotted with sagebrush!"
Such beauty still exists in the Southwest, even today. I have often driven such roads.
In contrast, Powell is an old grouch. The only things he finds to praise are his own presence and ruined adobes. He seeks the negatives, such as Gallup, New Mexico, where "the Indian may be seen in the stages of disintegration -- drinking, fighting, staggering and falling to the sidewalk and gutter. Here is the place to read 'Laughing Boy,' LaFarge's lament for a people debauched by an alien race."
Powell ignores the fact Gallup has established one of the nation's outstanding alcohol rehabilitation programs, far superior to anything in Tucson. His ugly words are a contrast to the beauty of Adams' photographs.
It doesn't matter. Buy the book for the photographs, they are worth it. Ignore Powell's whiney complaints. You'll get a gem in terms of wonderful pictures, and for laugh's you'll see Tucsonian political correctness run amok.