A good friend of mine introduced me to the writings of Napoleon Hill, a man who interviewed successful people to figure out what made them tick, and more importantly what made them successful. One of his more interesting ideas was that of assembling your own table of great minds. You can seat people living or dead, people you knew or didn’t, of any area of expertise you like around your table. Then, when you need advice, you sort of meditate on that idea of the table of guests you’ve created and you ask them for the advice you seek.
I find it similar to the mind palace of Sherlock Holmes or the Memory Warehouse in Dreamcatcher. A way to delve deep within yourself and find the answers to your problems.
After hearing about Napoleon Hill’s idea I started to create my mental list of who I would want to sit at my table, it would certainly be a varied list. One of the people I wanted at my table, since one of my passions is photography, was Ansel Adams. I couldn’t really meditated enough to fill the rest of my table, but I find myself thinking of Ansel Adams whenever I need an extra boost of confidence in my photography.
Ansel Adams was a photographer of skill, but also of great knowledge of the science of photography; the books he wrote on photography are extremely detailed, but despite his intelligence and skill in photography, Ansel Adams wasn’t a photography snob. In one of Ansel Adams’ books he writes about the importance of the snap shot. While some write off snap shots as skill-less, Ansel Adams pointed out that even snap shots are significant to photography as they display the practice of using the camera to see and set up a shot. Seeing is one of the most important principles of photography. I admire Ansel Adams for both his skill and his acceptance of all types of photographers and photography methods. He was also very much into preserving the environment and wrote many letters to his Senators and Congressman about preserving our National Parks. All around, he was a pretty cool guy in my opinion.
When people talk about having a spirit animal, it is usually an animal that acts as a symbol of an aspect of themselves they wish to encourage or highlight. Perhaps they need courage and strength, or the ability to nurture, one would focus on a spirit animal that represents that which they themselves most want to emulate.
Ansel Adams is sort of like that for me, like a spirit animal he has the qualities of a photographer I most want to emulate. Having grown up without the pleasure of knowing my grandparents or knowing much about who they were as people, I have taken a liking to imagining Ansel Adams as the kindly grandfather I never had. He shows me his old cameras and talks fondly about his memories shooting them. He’s highly intelligent with a jolly quality, he has a twinkle in his eye and loves to go on walks. He supports my photography endeavors and is there with a warm smile and a “I knew you could do it,” to celebrate my successes.
I enjoy reading View Camera Magazine when I can come across a copy and recently when cleaning my room, unearthed my issue with Ansel Adams on the cover. I was so happy I put the issue aside where I could easily find it for inspiration.
Just yesterday I received a very important phone call about a very big and exciting photography opportunity that would take me to New York. Things had been a bit up in the air about this opportunity for the last few months and I was nervous. I grabbed the issue of View Camera Magazine so that Ansel could be there to cheer me on while I returned the phone call. The conversation went well, it was all good news and after hanging up I celebrated. Ansel smiled at me proudly from his magazine cover, never doubting me for a second.
In the book, The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin mentions finding a spiritual guide to happiness in Saint Therese. If one can have a spiritual guide to happiness, Ansel Adams can be my Grandfather of Photography.