Colorado Springs Museum with photos by Ansel Adams in a new exhibition | North Springs Edition
A landscape by Ansel Adams is instantly recognizable to those who love photography.
The black and white mountains, the rises of the moon, gnarled trees, rivers that meander through the land, and streams of light that pierce white clouds. Adams, who developed an affinity for nature at an early age, is one of our most famous photographers.
Ansel Adams: Masterworks, an exhibition of 48 photos from his Museum Set portfolio, opened on Saturday at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College. The show is open Thursday through Saturday by reservation and lasts until September 4th.
Adams, who died in 1984 at the age of 82, began reflecting on his artistic legacy and work in 1979 by searching 2,500 negatives to capture the images that most strongly represented five decades of his career from 1923 to 1969. This collection is known as the “Museum Set”.
“He’s more of a household name than most artists,” says FAC contemporary art curator Katja Rivera. “He is instrumental in putting photography on the map. For many years it wasn’t as important to an art form as painting or sculpture. Given his interest in harnessing the technical capabilities of the camera, he has done a lot to change people’s perception. “
The dozen of photos reveal a wide range of Adams’ interests, says Rivera, including landscapes, many of which were taken in national parks in California, Nevada, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Texas. Colorado is also represented with the 1937 photo, Aspens, Dawn, Dolores River Canyon, Fall, Colorado. There are also images of architectural structures, cultural sites, and portraits, including one of Alfred Stieglitz, another famous photographer who inspired and influenced Adams in his work and also in his promotion of photography as an artistic medium.
Rivera values Adam’s dedication to photography most of all throughout his career and his efforts to bring more respect to the medium that evolved much later than painting and sculpture.
“In the 19th century there was a different perception,” she says. “It was a medium that started trying to imitate painting through soft focus. A lot of photos that you see from the 19th century and early 20th century have really soft focus. In the exhibition we have a photo from 1921 of Ansel flirting with this type of photography. But then he and other photographers used the medium for what it could – strong contrast, sharp focus, and fine details. That was the big change in the way photography was made and seen. “
At the heart of Adams’ work is his passion for nature. From a young age he was a mountaineer in San Francisco, where he grew up and became a staunch environmentalist and conservationist. At the age of 17 he became involved in the Sierra Club, a group that is dedicated to protecting the wild places on earth. He remained a member for the rest of his life and also served as director at one point. He campaigned for national parks and campaigned for the US Congress to support environmental concerns.
As he moved over the earth with his cameras and captured wonderful views, it’s easy to forget how difficult it was for him at that time.
“Adams used pretty big cameras and should have dragged them around the mountain,” said Rivera. “It was an endeavor very different from moving your iPhone around.”
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