EXHIBITION ON VIEW
Ansel Adams: Distance and Detail
Ansel Adams (American, 1902–1984), photographer, environmentalist and social activist, is recognized as one of America’s foremost photographers. His life’s work established photography as a legitimate art form, inspiring new ways of seeing and communicating. His long career represents a prolific and rich contribution to American art, including many hundreds of images that continue to profoundly influence the practice of the art of photography to this day. Adams's view of America, produced in over half a century of imagery, invites us to reexamine our visible world from the most intimate details in nature to the broadest of landscapes. His large, encompassing landscapes, for which he is best known, are inspired by the archetypal nineteenth-century idealized panorama, which was a typical genre in early painted and photographic depictions of the American West. Adams was influenced by these examples, and his earliest landscape photography reflected the prevailing soft-focus Pictorialism common to art photography of the time.
In 1930, he met New York photographer and filmmaker Paul Strand, who fused hard-edged modernist aesthetics with social concern in his pioneering work. Strand's commitment to photography as a medium for direct, realistic depiction influenced Adams greatly. By the time of his first solo museum exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution in 1931, Adams had found his mature style. In 1932, Adams joined fellow photographers Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, Willard van Dyke and John Paul Edwards, among others, to form Group f.64, a coalition of artists devoted to photographic realism. The modernist evolution of Adams's technique began a lifetime of dedication to craft. Adams became a restless and innovative experimentalist, developing many now-standard photographic practices and reinventing his approach at numerous stages in his career. His colleagues shared his pioneering interest in photography's ability to capture nature's most intimate details, to parallel the perceiver's actual experience in nature by realizing aspects of form and texture through light and shadow.
In contrast to the distant views for which Adams is exalted, his elemental, personal interpretations reveal a unique appreciation of what is close enough to touch and smell. This exhibition presents both of these styles—not in juxtaposition, but as complements, allowing for a deeper understanding of the photographer's complete vision of the natural world.