‘Ansel asked me if I was using his “zone system”. When I said I had my own method, he said I was probably using his unconsciously’

In 1976, I was working at the Photographers’ Gallery in London. The great Hungarian-French photographer Brassaï had an exhibition opening there and was coming over from Paris. I hurried along, wanting to meet him. Brassaï had heard Ansel Adams was also in town for his own exhibition at the Victoria & Albert, so we all piled into a taxi, diverting to my flat to pick up my Gandolfi plate camera – a spur-of-the-moment decision. At the V&A, I was informed that Bill Brandt had come to see Ansel’s exhibition, too. So I corralled all three of them on to a bench in the V&A garden.

They were all at the end of their careers. I don’t think Ansel did any more substantial work in the remaining years of his life. Brandt in those days considered himself “an artist” and did these very strange assemblages of things he found on the shoreline. It was bollocks, basically. Somebody should have said: “Look, Bill, stop sticking the detritus in glass boxes.”

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