Harry Ransom Center
Menu

Ansel Adams

A Legacy

August 9, 2005 – January 1, 2006

The American photographer Ansel Adams (1902-1984) was a master of creating visually unforgettable images of unspoiled nature in spectacular places. He was also lauded for his mastery of the technical challenges of black-and-white printing. Adams, who in his youth studied to be a concert pianist, believed that printing a negative was like the dynamic of an orchestra playing a symphony—the score remains the same but the interpretation of it changes with each performance. Adams, however, was more interested in the expressive power of a photograph than its technical perfection. "You don't make a photograph just with a camera," he said, "you bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved."

The Ansel Adams: A Legacy exhibition is a comprehensive survey of Adams' artistic career. Among the 126 photographs are dramatic vistas of Yosemite Valley and the Southwest, a variety of portraits of Georgia O'Keeffe and others, intimate close-ups of nature, and architectural views. Adams' printing style changed over time, culminating in these images, made late in his career when he applied stronger contrast and tones in developing his prints. Adams intended these "legacy" prints to represent his life's work as a panorama of the possibilities of the "straight," unmanipulated style to which he adhered.

All the photographs in the exhibition are originally from the collection of The Friends of Photography, one of the several organizations Ansel Adams helped create to promote the acceptance of photography as an art. Adams donated most of the works to The Friends of Photography and it is the largest known collection created by Adams himself. All of the works are now in the collection of Lynn and Tom Meredith, who have so generously helped to make this exhibition possible.