Adamson Takes Home ‘1,000 Words’ Award

Courtesy photo. Photographer Chris Adamson won this year’s “1,000 Words” award in the Frank Bette Center’s Alameda on Camera contest.

Photographer Chris Adamson noticed that when he tilted the photograph he had taken on its axis, it had the configuration of a yin-yang symbol. The cool turquoise and blues on the wall of the home in the picture formed one curve, and the fence, the other. After photographing this discovery, he continued roaming the streets, eyes peeled for photo opportunities to make exhibit-worthy pieces. 

He settled on that first photo and, after a few edits and some thoughtful contemplation for a title, Adamson entered the photograph in the Frank Bette Center’s ‘Alameda on Camera’ art contest and it won the ‘1,000 Words’ award.

Annually, the Frank Bette Center puts out a call for artwork, and photographers to take part in the Alameda on Camera project. They select 48 artists, and in February they join together to partition the map of Alameda into 48 sections. When the sections were divided, each artist randomly drew a segment of the map. 

Then, in the 48 hours of a designated weekend, the photographers took pictures within the physical parameters of their own pieces of the map. Participants could either submit a photo, painting or mixed media based on a photo they took within the contest’s time and geographical parameters. The center then displays selected pieces from the contest.

Adamson’s close friend Susan Hackett inspired him to participate in Alameda on Camera. She takes a unique approach with textile artwork. “She takes her photographs and combines them with pieces of fabric and makes a quilt. She won the ‘Best of Show’ Award this year,” Adamson said. 

Adamson has cultivated a passion for photography, and it was a friend who lit the spark that launched decades of photography outings for Adamson. “I was at a friend’s house who was showing photographs and it inspired me.” As a first step, Adamson read all of Ansel Adams’ books. This gave him a “basic knowledge of photography.”

Adamson attended two weeklong photography seminars in the 1980s to gain a technical foundation for photography. “Each day you were taught by a different photographer,” Adamson said. “I met Ansel Adams twice; he showed me his darkroom and I remember his famous photo of Half Dome on his corkboard.” 

After absorbing as much information as he could from books and seminars, Adamson set out to do some photography of his own. “I use minimal equipment. I don’t have a pile of cameras or lenses. I practice snapshot photography, and Alameda on Camera is very much like what I do all the time, so it was total fun for me.”

Years of practice helped produce the winning photograph, which he edited in Photoshop. He used the software to crop the cross-hatchet pattern of the sunset across the gate into the center portion of the picture, adding a warm glow to the overall effect. 

Adamson pondered his options for a title and chose one with an artistic ring. He originally wanted to call the photograph “Golden Gate,” but thought it too “obvious a play on the bridge,” so he decided on “Sunset Gate” a hybrid of the bridge’s name that includes specific elements of his winning photograph. 

Adamson’s advice for aspiring photographers are Ansel Adams’ words, “Any good photographer can make good photographs with any camera.”

Janet Chen is an Alameda Sun intern. She can be reached at editor@alamedasun.com.

Adamson's winning photo