Ansel Adams at 100
From August 4, 2001 to January 13, 2002 SFMOMA (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) is displaying over 100 images by the well loved and amazing photographer Ansel Adams. You can visit the beautifully done Online interactive Program or visit San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art in person to view the Ansel Adams Exhibition.
When I think of Ansel Adams I immediately think of the breathtaking black and white photographs he took all over Yosemite National Park. One of my favorite places in the world, Adams captures Yosemite’s captivating and majestic beauty in these unforgettable photographs. His photographs of many well-known and totally unknown places have understandably captivated the world.
For the next best thing to being there, SFMOMA has generously placed a superb Online Interactive program at their Web site (you’ll need the free Flash or Quicktime plug-in). The program begins with 7 of Adams' images on the first screen with appropriate piano sounds whenever you pass your mouse over any of them. By clicking on one of them you’re taken on a journey through the wonderland of Adams' photographs. You can listen to sound clips by curator Douglas R. Nickel if you wish, zoom in on the photographs for a closer view, and take as long as you wish to soak in these amazing photos.
Although only 7 images of Adams' prolific photography are displayed and discussed within the Online Interactive program, it provides an exceptional glimpse and overview. Shown are 2 scenes from Yosemite, and one each of New Mexico, California’s Sierra Nevadas, Frozen Lake, Mt. McKinley and Wonder Lake (Alaska), and the ocean.
The optional interactivity allows visitors to view one or all of the images or explore far more detail about each one at will with easy-to-understand clickable links with your mouse. Curator Douglas R. Nickel talks about each one (optional sound clips to access at will), or you can read along. For example, regarding Moonrise taken at Hernandez, New Mexico, Nickel writes:
“Adams often compared the negative to a musical score and the print to a performance. He first made a contact, or straight print of the Moonrise to plan his performance. The dramatic quality of the finished print is the result of careful burning and dodging during exposure, a process in which the photographer uses a paper card to let more or less light pass through certain areas of the negative onto the printing paper.”
The visitor can click on the contact print sample to zoom in and read excerpts and further discussion about the details. These provide wonderfully insightful information for those who’d like to learn more about how Adams processed his prints using burn and dodge, among other things, to create the final “performance.”
My mom, a talented artist, was an avid follower of his work and her overflowing enthusiasm easily rubbed off on me the moment I experienced a photograph by Adams for the first time, “Monolith, the face of Half-Dome.” That one has ended up being one of his most popular and is shown in SFMOMA’s online program, too. As a result of her influence, I’ve had the honor of exploring Ansel Adams' work as far back as I can remember.
Adams and the Piano
Years later when I worked on my master’s degree in piano performance, I spent endless hours at my piano teacher’s home working away at the piano while he coached me, especially as we got closer to one of my performances. On his walls were at least 8-12 of Ansel Adams' photos. It turned out that Adams and my instructor had been good friends at Yosemite when my instructor played the piano there for many years during the holidays. Adams was also an accomplished pianist, and with my instructor’s love for photography, they had much in common and formed a good friendship.
It is therefore no wonder that Adams compared his photography work with a musical performance, as Nickel notes above.
As I worked with my instructor I often saw those gorgeous photos in my mind as I played passages that sounded like waterfalls, meadows, peaceful nights, or treacherous storms with howling winds through the forests. Adams was and remains a huge impact on my life, even moreso since we share a mutual love for Yosemite and the beauty of nature in all its splendor.
Is there any doubt that I will be visiting San Francisco’s Ansel Adams at 100 Exhibit?! If you explore SFMOMA’s site, you’ll see that Adams' works are being displayed in several locations around the bay area, too.