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Ansel Adams at 100 Hardcover – August 2, 2001
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Ansel Adams at 100 celebrates the centenary of one of America's best-loved photographers. This superlative catalog of an exhibition organized by San Francisco Museum of Modern Art presents the most dramatic and the most delicate of Adams's formal compositions, from spectacular mountainscapes to grasses on a pond, all reflecting his avowedly religious relationship to nature. Previously unpublished examples of Adams's early images show how he worked through the day, using changing light and different vantage points to interpret a subject. A fascinating comparison of his darkroom techniques is given in two printings of a 1948 negative of Mount McKinley, made in 1949 and 1978 to very different effects, one brooding and luminous, the other crisp and monumental. (The conventional wisdom is to prefer the earlier, but this reviewer loves them both.) The text by John Szarkowski, director emeritus of New York MoMA's photography department, gives biographical details and gracefully places Adams in the history of 20th-century photography and the conservation movement. Impeccable technical standards were a hallmark of Adams's work, and this book follows his tradition. Each black-and-white image is a tritone, meaning that it was printed from three different plates corresponding to different parts of the original photograph's gray scale, resulting in an extremely rich chromatic range. Light really does appear to glisten off a wet rock, and white aspens to glow. The images have been very carefully chosen, each page of a double spread complementing the other. The book's paper is custom-made, it is bound in linen and presented in a linen slipcase, and a complimentary facsimile of one of Adams's icons is included. The whole adds up to a most unusual and pleasing artifact: Ansel Adams at 100 consciously sets out to be the definitive study of a master, and it succeeds. --John Stevenson
From Publishers Weekly
Grandly proportioned, linen-bound and graceful as the images it conveys, Ansel Adams at 100 commemorates the birth of the famous native San Franciscan photographer with 114 of Adams's rich, beloved images spanning his oeuvre, and some delightful photos of the artist. The book and accompanying centennial exhibit at San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art (Aug. 2001-Jan. 2002), curated by John Szarkowski, director of the department of photography at New York's Museum of Modern Art, reevaluate the impact of Adams's work on photography, landscapes and the audience. "His pictures have enlarged our visceral knowledge of things that we do not understand," writes Szarkowski. He relates specific epiphanies that propelled Adams's evolution as an artist, such as when he shot Monolith, the Face of Half Dome, having suddenly realized that using a specific filter would "deepen the tone of the sky almost to black" and capture his emotional experience of the vista.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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reproduced images are likely the closest most of us will get to seeing his work
as he visualized. For anyone seriously interested in photographic legacy and history, the book
is a 'must have,' along with "Edward Weston's 50 Years."
An excellent companion volume to 'AA at 100' is Adams' "Examples: The Making of
40 Photographs." In this book, AA offers both technical and anecdotal notes for many
of his iconic images.
Szarkowski, Director Emeritus of the Department of Photography at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City, often selects unexpected and unfamiliar prints in his collection. The book is great in every way. It was printed in tritones at Meridian Printing on paper made in Toulouse, France. The plates are scaled to reflect the relative size of the original photographs; the book and slipcase are bound in a linen cloth made in the Netherlands. It is a fitting tribute to Ansel Adams' art.
Adams' pictures define for me what the term landscape means. This is a great collection of his work and should serve provide a firm foundation for Adams' elevation from a photographer to an artist.
Of course, no two photographers will ever agree as to what photos should have been included in this massive retrospective -- outside of the obvious ones like "Moonrise Over Hernandez County" -- but every photographer who looks at this book should find inspiration in Ansel's inimitable "eye" that saw, and captured on film, the ordinary and transformed it into the extraordinary; a photographer who saw the extraordinary and transformed it into the sublime.
As for the text: I think an academic perspective is certainly appropriate for such a retrospective, but I would dearly have loved to see a piece by, say, Joseph Holmes (NATURAL LIGHT--a gorgeous collection of photos) or another photographer to give it, so to speak, a "through the lens" perspective.
Although there are other coffee-table sized books published of Ansel Adams's work, this one sets a high watermark and, as such, should find a permanent place in the library of every serious photographer, aspiring photographer, or anyone with a sense of beauty who can appreciate the rare and wonderful talent that is Ansel Adams.