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  • Ansel Adams | How the famed photographer got his start

    by Jonathan Spaulding, Guest curator for Ansel Adams exhibit | Feb 24, 2014


    Ansel Adams, photograph by Jim Alinder

    In the spring of 1916, the fourteen-year-old Ansel was in bed with a cold. To cheer his spirits during another of his many illnesses, his aunt gave him a copy of James M. Hutchings’s In the Heart of the Sierras, published in 1886 and one of the classic travel accounts of the region. The boy lay mesmerized by Hutchings’s romantic tales of adventure among the towering walls of the Yosemite Valley. The family had been discussing where to spend their upcoming summer vacation. In years past they had gone to Puget Sound or down the coast to Santa Cruz, but for Ansel there was now no option. They simply had to go to this incredible place called Yosemite.

    Soon after their arrival, Ansel’s parents gave him a Kodak No. I Box Brownie camera. After a brief lesson on its simple controls, he was off to explore the area. On foot, camera in hand, he traversed the valley with characteristic hyperkineticism. He took snapshots with no conscious artfulness, only a desire to record what caught his eye. At one point he clambered atop a rotting stump to shoot across the valley floor to the cliffs above. As he leaned back to take the picture, the stump gave way, sending him plummeting to earth. On the way down he managed to trip the shutter.

    The next day he took the film into the valley’s local camera shop, Pillsbury Pictures, Inc. When he came back to pick it up, Arthur Pillsbury himself presented him with the processed photos. Pillsbury inquired about one shot on the roll in particular. How had it happened to be made upside down? Had Adams held the camera inverse over his head for a better angle? Ansel explained his airborne photograph, adding that it was just a matter of luck that it had been shot at a perfect 180 degrees. Pillsbury gave the boy a skeptical look; here was an odd one indeed.

    Following his first Yosemite trip, Ansel Adams returned home to San Francisco and continued to use his camera. Because of his burning desire to learn more about photography, he went to work part-time as a “darkroom monkey” for neighbor Frank Dittman, who owned a photo-finishing operation.


    Ansel Adams in darkroom, photograph by Jim Alinder

    Ansel was well received by Dittman, the three printers, and the six delivery boys, although his odd ways provoked some ribbling. The skinny, hyperactive Ansel, with his crooked nose, his long words, and his stories about Yosemite, seemed an amusing character. They called him “Ansel Yosemite Adams.” He took it all well, Dittman remembered, and appeared to find the pranks played on him funny, too. He “picked up cussing real fast,” and Dittman thought the job was a good antidote to the music lessons he believed were just another example of the coddling the boy got at home. Dittman recognized that Ansel was in his element in the darkroom. “It came natural to him. I could see right off he was good. Whatever the kid done was done thorough.”

    Adams was fascinated by photographic equipment and begun to prowl the local camera shops to investigate the rows of lenses, tripods, lights, chemicals, printing papers, cameras and film. He read the amateur photographic magazines and whatever technical handbooks he could find. At a local camera club he met W.E. Dassonville, a manufacturer of fine printing papers and an accomplished photographer. Dassonville knew many of the Bay Area photographers and gave Adams an introduction to the practice of the medium as a fine art.

    - From the biography Ansel Adams and the American Landscape by Jonathan Spaulding’s biography contains an extensive bibliography of works by and about Ansel Adams. His detailed descriptions of Adams’ photographs, projects, and relationships offer compelling insights into the man who has come to represent the American West.

    Meet Jonathan Spaulding this Saturday at the Eiteljorg during opening weekend of the Ansel Adams exhibit.

    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 - See more at: http://www.eiteljorg.org/interact/blog/eitelblog/2014/02/19/ansel-adams-influence-and-inspiration-in-over-80-photographs#sthash.b17D76QF.dpuf
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  • Throwback Thursday | 2001 Ansel Adams at the Eiteljorg

    by Jan Eason, Eiteljorg education services coordinator | Feb 20, 2014

     Eiteljorg education services coordinator Jan Eason was there in 2001 when the museum opened its first exhibition of the photographs of Ansel Adams. Jan snapped a picture of the line that formed outside the Eiteljorg. She couldn't believe the amount of people who'd flooded the front of the building to see the work of one of the most celebrated photographers of all time.
     



    “We need all staff to come to the museum entrance!” 

    Wow!!!! Just getting to the entrance was a challenge with all the visitors in the lobby.  Nothing like this had happened in my time with the museum.  I had to take pictures and so I did with my instamatic camera.  Ansel Adam’s work resonated with our visitors. The galleries were full with intent viewers and conversations on the work, techniques, and wondering if they could take home images.

    The response was truly overwhelming and everyone on the staff was proud.

    All our work and concern was validated.  The dedicated store was a hit. Staff worked the line outside -  welcoming and informing visitors about memberships  - and that they could enter immediately. The wait seemed shorter when they could ask questions and chat. This excitement continued during the run of the exhibit. When departing so many smiling visitors said ,”We’ll be back!”

    I had no inkling that this would be the first of many such successful future shows and events at the Eiteljorg. Ansel Adams returns to the Eiteljorg March 1.

    (Pictured above: Ansel Adams at Washburn Pt., photograph by Jim Alinder)

     - This blog post was written by 23-year Eiteljorg employee and Rose Award recipient Jan Eason.



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  • 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.

    Go comment!




  • From Slave to Cowboy | Nat Love's story comes to life this Saturday at the Eiteljorg

    by Eiteljorg Museum Public Programs | Feb 17, 2014
    Join us at 1:30 p.m., this Saturday, Feb. 22, to experience storyteller Rochel Coleman as he recreates the life and times of African American cowboy Nat Love in a series of stories based on Love’s autobiography. 


    Nat Love, born a slave in Tennessee, went west at the age of 15 to seek freedom and equal opportunity. He earned the name "Deadwood Dick" on July 4, 1876 by being the best cowboy in a competition which included roping, riding and shooting. Nat took on all comers and was the best at every event in the competition. He was also called "Red River Dick" when he was instrumental in heading cattle drives from Texas to Kansas. He had the distinguished position of chief brand reader, which ranked him as an outstanding cattleman. He was one of the most prominent black cowboys in the early history of the West. The attitude regarding race relations between cowboys were non-existent at that time. For most people, a cowboy was a cowboy. "Deadwood Dick" was a bronco-buster, sharpshooter and one of the most trusted cowboys of his era. In his days as a cowboy, he was befriended by many of the noted ‘bad men’ of the time, such as Billy the Kid, the James Brothers, and Bat Masterson. He was also adopted by more than one Indian tribe.

    About Storyteller Rochel Coleman
    Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, Rochel started singing professionally at

    the age of nine. With the Men and Boys’ Choir of Christ Church Cathedral and then with the Berkshire Boys’ Choir, he distinguished himself as a soloist, performing with Pablo Cassals, King’s College Choir, and the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood. Opening the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, he had his first taste of acting. He toured with the show for two years, ending the run at Lincoln Center in New York City. Rochel continued to study music and drama at Indiana University and toured several operas under the direction of the Indiana School of Music. From St. Richard’s School, to Brebeuf Preparatory School, and finally at Colorado College, he continued to have an interest in drama, participating in regional productions. Rochel worked on a number of daytime dramas. When the opportunity came to study at Trinity Repertory Conservatory, he moved to Providence, RI. Rochel continues to expand his achievements through writing and directing.

    Source for this post:
    Supplemental curriculum guide for teachers for Rochel Coleman's performance of "I, Nat Love | The Story of Deadwood Dick."

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  • Stories of Cultural Diversity | Meet Storyteller Joanna Winston

    by Linda Montag-Olson, Eiteljorg public programs manager | Feb 13, 2014

    Joanna Winston
     
    Two historical characters of the West spring to life as actor/storyteller Joanna Winston shares their stories with delighted audiences. Winston is part of the Eiteljorg Museum to Classroom project, made possible with funding from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust and Citizens Energy Group. Through the generosity of our sponsors, there is no charge for schools hosting Winston in the classroom.

    Winston’s engaging performances, in which she transforms to “Stagecoach” Mary Fields or mountain man James Beckwourth, include singing, sign-language, and many more surprises.

    “Stagecoach” Mary Fields was the first female mail carrier hired in the US, and she delivered mail in the Montana Territory from 1895 to 1903. Born a slave in Tennessee, Mary’s strength, courage and intelligence shine as Winston tells her story.

    “Mary proved that even though she was African American and a woman, she was just as smart, and strong, and stubborn as any white man,” said Winston. “It’s such an honor to portray her life.”

    Trader, trapper, trail blazer, James Beckwourth, is another character in Winston’s repertoire. Born the son of a white captain in the Revolutionary War and a black slave woman, he spoke three languages, lived with and fought with Crow Indians, and discovered a place for early pioneers to cross the Sierra Nevada Mountain range.  Beckwourth Pass is still in use today as part of a California highway. 
     
    “When I perform the Beckwourth story, I get to share my own experiences about growing up in a biracial household,” said Winston, the daughter of a white mother and an African American father. Joanna Winston“My hope is that my story resonates, and helps listeners to connect the lives of those past and present.”

    Students and families, at the museum and at schools in the Indianapolis area, are amazed to find out that the West was so diverse. Through Eiteljorg curriculum, they also learn that at least 30 percent of cowboys were African American.

    A Butler fine arts graduate, Winston shines during each performance. See her Saturday afternoons at the Eiteljorg. Classroom visits can be arranged for Thursday and Friday mornings through May 23 by calling 317.275.1350.

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