“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” – Ansel Adams

When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence. ― Ansel Adams

When Ansel Adams constantly amazed me with his wisdom of inspirational words, I knew without seeing his photographs that he was a great photographer.

When a photographer’s words become wise, his photographs must be wiser.

Adams The Tetons and the Snake River

Yes, the words and images are the purpose behind the photography and the reason a photographer picks up a camera. When the purpose is clear, words or images are adequate; however, if the purpose is unclear, words or images are superfluous.

“To the complaint, ‘There are no people in these photographs,’ I respond, ‘There are always two people: the photographer and the viewer.'” – Ansel Adams

There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer - Ansel Adams

In this quote, Ansel Adams conveys a similar message: In each photograph there is the photographer’s purpose as well as the intended viewer.

If the viewer doesn’t get the purpose, he’s probably not the intended audience.

“There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.” – Ansel Adams

The conventional photography rules provide guidelines for beginner photographers. However, once a photographer masters the basic rules, he’s free to express himself without restriction, because the rules are not the purpose behind the photography, rather, a methodology to help the photographer’s self-expression, and the purpose is the essence of the photographs.

Boy Jump Trampoline

In this photo, the viewer’s eyes are immediately drawn to the jumping boy who breaks the basic rule of composition “Rule of Thirds” and is in the center instead. When the jumping boy in the center of other children is the purpose of the photograph, breaking the rule makes it wonderful.

“There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.” – Ansel Adams

Or, there is nothing better than a sharp concept whether it’s a sharp image or a fuzzy one.


This image is blurred, but it’s the clear purpose “the colorful” behind the photography that works wonders.

“A good photograph is knowing where to stand.” – Ansel Adams


In this quote, “where to stand” has two meanings, one being the spot the photographer chooses to stand to take in the subject from that angle, the other being the photographer’s perspective, the purpose.

We say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it’s especially true in photography. Even the world’s most famous landmarks can look completely different taken from a different angle.

Arc de Triomphe

If you recognize the beauty of your backyard, you can make it beautiful in your photos from where you stand.

Where You Stand

“I tried to keep both arts alive, but the camera won. I found that while the camera does not express the soul, perhaps a photograph can!” – Ansel Adams

This quote brings out the theme of his wisdom. A good photographer knows how to express his soul through his photographs. In this sense, can we say that a photographer is not a photographer, rather, a wise soul?

Further Reading

10 Photography Lessons From Ansel Adams

The Eiffel Tower from Different Perspectives


Ansel Adams Quotes

About The Author

is a photography enthusiast and a frequent traveler who truly appreciates every tiny beauty of life and has traveled extensively around the world. She finds herself keen on a unique type of photography and calls herself a culture photographer. Her passion is Paris where she has been to more than once, living as a Parisian. She has walked big streets and small alleys in Paris, and every inch of the city has given her inspiration. She has a Paris collection on Alamy.com and a Paris travel blog at ParisEncore.com.

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  • sharon

    Loved the Ansel Adams post.