Analysis of Mount Williamson by Ansel Adams

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About this sample


Words: 1533 |

Pages: 3|

8 min read

Published: Nov 8, 2019

Words: 1533|Pages: 3|8 min read

Published: Nov 8, 2019


Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Ideas of Individualism and Community in the Photograph
  3. Personal experiences
  4. Conclusion


The fundamental concept that underpins the development of civilizations, cultures, and religions is the idea of community. Whether it's a family, a town, a nation, or even the entire world, the aspiration for a utopian society has captured the imagination of philosophers throughout the history of human civilization. A united and cohesive community has the potential to foster feelings of bliss, compassion, and love, qualities that can be considered the bedrock of divinity itself. However, in our modern society, we seem to have lost sight of the profound benefits of unity, and instead, we have evolved into a capitalist-driven society that places an overwhelming emphasis on individualism. This shift has blurred our vision of the utopian society we once dreamed of, and instead, we find ourselves perpetually engaged in a relentless pursuit of personal success, often at the expense of collective well-being. Ansel Adams' 1944 photograph of Mount Williamson captures this eternal struggle between individualism and community.

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Ideas of Individualism and Community in the Photograph

Mount Williamson, nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, serves as a stark representation of modern society's erosion of community values. Adams' photograph portrays a vast valley strewn with massive boulders as far as the eye can see. Each boulder is unique, with its own size, shape, and color; however, they all share a common trait - they are just boulders. These boulders can be seen as a metaphor for humanity itself. We are all unique individuals, yet we are bound together by the common thread of our shared humanity. However, our individual pursuits often blind us to the struggles of others, much like these boulders stand individually in the valley. In stark contrast, Mount Williamson, with its grandeur and aura, seems to emanate divinity.

In the teachings of the Old Testament, we are led to believe that we are created in the image of God, and to attain eternal love and transcend the inevitability of death, we must present ourselves before the glory of the divine. Adams' photograph powerfully embodies this Old Testament notion. The mountains exude magnificence, with heavenly clouds and rays of light. It is inferable that the mountains represent a deity and all her splendor. Conversely, the boulders appear bleak and powerless, buried beneath the weight of earthly sins and pleasures. Just as the boulders seem to present themselves for judgment to Mount Williamson, humanity, too, must be prepared for its own moment of judgment.

Mount Williamson symbolizes both our judgment and salvation. Upon closer examination of the photograph, one can discern that the mountains are composed of the boulders that lay before them. No single boulder can support the delicate ecosystem of nature, whereas a mountain provides a home for plants and animals, enabling the sustenance of life. Similarly, it is not a single individual that forges a thriving society, but a collective effort that integrates the fundamental principles of divinity into the fabric of society. Love, compassion, and humanity may originate from one, but they are forged and nurtured by many united as one.

One of the most striking aspects of Adams' photograph is the interplay of light and shadow. Adams skillfully employs shadow and shade to create a stark contrast between heaven and hell. The individual boulders are shrouded in darkness, evoking feelings of oppression, fear, discontent, and despair. These elements imbue the valley with an atmosphere of isolation, where individuals feel alone in a world filled with others. Conversely, the mountains bask in the radiant light from the clouds, creating an ambiance of reverence and profound enlightenment. This visual juxtaposition underscores the essential connection between humanity and the concept of unity. When the boulders come together to form mountains, they engender a profound sense of wisdom and divinity. The same holds true for humanity - when we unite and form communities, we lay the foundation for a thriving and harmonious society.

Unfortunately, contemporary society appears to be slowly eroding the mountains of unity, compelling individuals to bear the weight of humanity's burdens. This unfortunate reality is visible every day, as families struggle to survive on the streets, while governments engage in conflicts abroad, leaving struggling nations in their wake. Our imperfect society often idolizes and lavishly rewards talentless celebrities while showing little respect or providing fair compensation to the doctors and teachers who truly contribute to the well-being of our community. Unity is an essential element for society to flourish, yet those occupations that support and sustain societal growth often receive inadequate recognition and compensation.

Personal experiences

Conner Lloyd, an exceptional student, athlete, and a remarkable friend, entered my life during the transition from middle school to high school when we met at a summer rowing camp. Our friendship, though lacking a distinct beginning, was unique and profound. Conner consistently excelled academically, hailed from a genuinely happy family, and possessed extraordinary athletic talents. Despite my continuous struggles where he thrived, Conner convinced me to join him in trying out for the novice boys' rowing team.

In early spring, tragedy struck when Conner was involved in a car accident that shattered his seemingly perfect world. The driver was intoxicated and took a wide turn, resulting in a direct collision with a PG&E service truck. Conner's injuries were severe, and he spent nearly two weeks in the ICU. Over months of intensive physical therapy and multiple surgeries, Conner has made remarkable progress and is now on the path to a full recovery. Yet, it is important to acknowledge that such accomplishments are not the result of the efforts of a single individual.

Conner's journey to recovery represents an extraordinary triumph, but it was only made possible through the unity of his community. Doctors dedicated countless hours to his care, his family spent nights in his sterile hospital room, and his friends, myself included, formed deep connections with the nursing staff. Conner's recovery can be likened to Adams' photograph of Mount Williamson - his health and well-being symbolize the mountains, created through the unity of his doctors, family, and friends. Without the collective efforts of these "boulders," the mountains of his recovery would have ultimately eroded and crumbled.

Famed Harvard Rowing coach William A. Ward once imparted wisdom to his team, stating that "adversity causes some men to break, and others to break records." Our novice rowing team had experienced both defeat and victory, but nothing could have prepared us for the profound sense of fear and adversity that we encountered. As a team, we visited Conner Lloyd while he was still in the ICU, hooked up to various machines to sustain his life. Standing in solemn silence amidst the monotonous beeping of heart monitors, our team transformed from a collection of individuals into a family. Everything about our team shifted in that sterile hospital room; it was no longer just about a friend who had suffered a car accident - he had become our brother.

As Conner ventured outside his hospital room and began the arduous process of rehabilitation, our team gained a newfound sense of purpose and unity, which was clearly reflected in our racing results. At the start of the season, our coach had emphasized that "the team is only as fast as the slowest rower." Heading into the regional finals, we knew that our slowest rower was exceptionally fast. Thirty-four boats from six states converged on Sacramento to compete for the gold. Our blood, sweat, and tears from the entire season converged into a single 2,000-meter race.

At the starting line, surrounded by our competitors, doubt began to creep in. The race commenced, and our unity appeared to disintegrate. At the 500-meter mark, we found ourselves trailing behind, until we grasped the significance of coming together as one. In a few strokes, our oars sliced through the water in unison, our bodies moved in perfect harmony, and we began to surge forward. Last place quickly transformed into second, and with a final burst of effort, we crossed the finish line in first place, winning by a mere fraction of a second. As we rowed back to the dock, we spotted Conner, ecstatic in his wheelchair. As a united team, we celebrated our victory.

Through the lens of Adams' camera, we can draw a parallel with our rowing team's journey. Initially, we were individual boulders, each of us struggling in the pursuit of personal success. However, Conner's accident inadvertently transformed us into a close-knit family, akin to the mountains of Williamson, allowing us to achieve collective goals.

Ansel Adams' photograph of Mount Williamson presents a compelling commentary on contemporary society. It vividly illustrates that individuals, acting in isolation, cannot achieve the same remarkable outcomes as a united community. The euphoria that arises from teamwork and unity ultimately cultivates a profound sense of divinity, fostering humanity and compassion. While the photograph serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of unity, it also underscores the essential role of community in human existence.

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In conclusion, Ansel Adams' photograph of Mount Williamson serves as a powerful symbol of the enduring struggle between individualism and community in modern society. It highlights the profound benefits of unity, as depicted in the majestic mountains, while underscoring the limitations of individual pursuits, symbolized by the isolated boulders. The photograph also resonates with the teachings of the Old Testament, emphasizing the importance of presenting oneself before the divine as a united and compassionate community. Furthermore, personal experiences, such as Conner Lloyd's journey to recovery and our rowing team's transformation, provide real-world examples of the transformative power of unity. In a world increasingly driven by individualism, it is imperative that we recognize the enduring significance of community and work collectively to build a society that values compassion, humanity, and love - the true fundamentals of divinity. By coming together, like the boulders forming the mountains of Williamson, humanity can achieve greatness and create a harmonious and compassionate world for all.


  1. Adams, A., & Alinder, M. (1996). Ansel Adams: An Autobiography. Bulfinch.
  2. Szarkowski, J. (2005). Ansel Adams at 100. Little, Brown.
  3. United Nations Development Programme. (2021). Human Development Report 2020: The Next Frontier—Human Development and the Anthropocene.
  4. UNESCO. (2021). World Heritage List.
  5. Jackson, W. H. (Ed.). (2014). Ansel Adams: Evolution of a Photographer. University of California Press.
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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Analysis of Mount Williamson by Ansel Adams. (2019, September 13). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 21, 2024, from
“Analysis of Mount Williamson by Ansel Adams.” GradesFixer, 13 Sept. 2019,
Analysis of Mount Williamson by Ansel Adams. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 21 Feb. 2024].
Analysis of Mount Williamson by Ansel Adams [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2019 Sept 13 [cited 2024 Feb 21]. Available from:
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