Eiteljorg Musuem Blog

Ansel Adams | Influence and inspiration in over 80 photographs

by James H. Nottage, Eiteljorg vice president and chief curatorial officer | Feb 18, 2014

Ansel Adams in Owens Valley, photograph by Cedric Wright, courtesy of the Colby Memorial Library, Sierra Club.

The photo. It captures life’s moments with just the tap of an index finger. Whether by phone, disposable or interchangeable lens camera, we all start off as amateur photographers – telling visual stories of our personal lives.  Before he became known as the creator of some of the most influential photographs ever made, Ansel Adams, like many of us was an amateur with a simple Kodak Box Brownie camera. But something happened when he was 14 that put Ansel on the path that sealed his destiny. On vacation with his family in the Yosemite Valley in 1916, he took snapshots of the majestic beauty of the land and found the inspiration that later led him to profoundly impact the world of photography as art. On March1, 2014, the Eiteljorg Museum will open Ansel Adams – a collection of over 80 of this legendary photographer’s personally chosen photographs.

The featured images in this exhibition represent the best of Adams’ career. The photographs focus largely on the vast spaces of the American West, ranging from Yosemite to the Pacific Coast, the Southwest, Alaska, Hawaii, Yellowstone Park, and the Northwest. Referred to as The Museum Set, this lifetime portfolio includes many of Adams’ most famous and best-loved photographs, including architectural studies, portraits and magnificent landscapes. Obtained from the collections of the Capital Group, the images are joined by vintage prints from an important private collection.  Included among these are representations from Adams’ first published portfolios done in 1927 and 1930.

Ansel Adams is drawn together by guest curator, Dr. Jonathan Spaulding, who writes, “Over the course of the 20th century, no artist had a greater role in the awakening of environmental awareness than Ansel Adams. His legacy is more than a body of beautiful images. Adams changed how we think and how we act. Across the arc of his life, one thing remained constant: to express through his art the forms and moods and ancient forces of our small planet, our only home in a vast universe.” Spaulding is the author of the leading Adams biography, Ansel Adams and the American Landscape, a biography, published in 1995.

The Eiteljorg first featured Ansel Adams’ photographs in a short-term exhibit in 2001.  Until this past year, it was the most heavily visited exhibition in the museum’s history. In celebrating 25 years as a major Indianapolis cultural institution, we are pleased to feature the work of Ansel Adams until Sunday, Aug. 3, 2014. During the five month run of Ansel Adams, the museum will host documentaries, programs, lectures, and photography lessons focused on Adams and his place in the environmental movement.

Our hope is to help educate visitors about Ansel’s impact on their lives. From the family pictures in your album at home, to the selfies posted on Facebook and Instagram, Ansel Adams’ influence is everywhere we look. This exhibit could inspire the next Ansel Adams, just like Yosemite Valley inspired an unbridled teenager to change the world of photography nearly 100 years ago.
Ansel Adams opening weekend schedule
Friday, Feb. 28, 2014
7 p.m.
Ansel Adams preview party
$45 members, $55 nonmembers

Saturday, Mar. 1, 2014
1:30 p.m.
A Conversation with curator Jonathan Spaulding
Join Jonathan Spaulding for a behind-the-scenes discussion of Ansel Adams’ life and work.


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