ABOUT THE EXHIBITION
Ansel Adams and the Legacy of the American Landscape: Photographs from the NBMAA
Among the most revered photographers of the 20th century, Ansel Adams is celebrated for his majestic black-and-white images of the American West. For nearly 60 years, Adams explored and recorded the grandeur of nature, initiating a lyrical way of viewing the world in photographs that convey beauty, awe, and emotional drama. Advocating "pure" photography favoring sharp focus, Adams placed great value on technical mastery and elevated photography as an art form throughout the 20th century.
Ansel Adams and the Legacy of the American Landscape: Photographs from the NBMAA considers Adams’ immeasurable contributions to photography, art, and environmental advocacy over the past century. The exhibition places iconic images by Adams in dialogue with works by photographers who practiced during and after his life, to provide deeper perspectives on themes central to his practice, demonstrate the power of his legacy, and inspire consideration about the state of the American landscape in the 21st century.
Featured in the exhibition is Adams’ Portfolio III: Yosemite Valley, comprising 16 silver gelatin prints depicting the beauty of Yosemite National Park in California. Born in San Francisco, Adams visited Yosemite National Park in 1916 with his family and was given his first camera. Photography and Yosemite would remain subjects of fascination for the remainder of Adams’ life. In 1960, Portfolio III was published by the Sierra Club, a renowned conservation organization of which Adams was a dedicated member for 32 years. Dating from 1927 to 1960, the portfolio images capture nature in its most grand and minute details. These and other works by Adams had profound success in awakening many Americans to the beauty of the nation’s natural regions and the importance of preserving them.
Among the 20th- and 21st-century artists featured in conversation with Adams are pioneering photographers Dorothea Lange and Marilyn Bridges, who offered new social, cultural, and visual perspectives on the American landscape, as well as contemporary photographers Michael A. Smith, Stephen Petegorsky, and Marion Belanger, who capture views of the landscape in both its pristine and cultivated spaces. Collectively, these works consider the role photography has played, and continues to play, in our changing perceptions of photography and the American landscape.