Quote by Ansel Adams

by Todd Smith on October 13, 2008

“There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.” Ansel Adams

I love this quote… it points directly at the theme of this blog: transparency. Both the photographer and the viewer are transparent, yet they are the most essential parts of any image.

If photography could be seen in terms of abstract algebra, the viewer or photographer would be said to be the identity element. The identity element of a group is the element which, when the group’s function is applied, yields itself, and if combined with any other element yields the same element.

For example, with the group of the real numbers under the function of addition, the identity element is zero, because 0 + 0 = 0 and 0 + any number = that same number. The identity element of the real numbers under multiplication is the number 1, because 1 x 1 = 1 and 1 x any number = that same number.

Zero is inextricably embedded in every number under the function of addition, and 1 is transparently embedded in every number under multiplication. Like that, the transparent observer in photography (whether you think of it as the photographer or the viewer) is necessarily embedded in every image.

Isn’t it interesting that the true essence, or identity, of anything is transparent?!

Can you find the transparent identity element in other parts of life? Let me know in the comments below.

I can think of of a couple of examples: the identity element of a successful business is a desire to serve (it is transparent, yet present in every transaction), the identity element of the physiology is the DNA (it is present in every cell no matter what gene that cell expresses).

What examples can you find?

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