Display highlights the work of Ansel Adams

by Beacon Staff • November 2, 2005

Ansel Adams, whose work is currently on display at the Museum of Fine Arts, was a renowned American photographer known for his well-lit, black and white landscapes. The museum is hosting an extensive collection of Adams' work, which spans from the 1920s to the 70s and incorporates different styles. Interspersed with the photographs are anecdotes about Adams' life and quotes from him and his colleagues, which add more depth to the display.

The most captivating aspect of Adams' work is his ability to capture simple details.

He also had an understanding of contrast in both subject and color, or lack thereof. All of Adams' photographs are black and white, which adds another dimension to each image by allowing the purist details to stand out brilliantly.

Adams had a talent for giving even the most basic objects (like a flower) and the most seemingly unimportant situations a new perspective, and finding the detail and intrigue hidden in objects that most people overlook.

The photos showcase the high focus and great depth of field for which Adams is known. There are many interesting and detailed shots of Yosemite National Park, which wonderfully capture light hitting the mountains and landscapes. Adams also lensed his hometown of San Francisco as well as New Mexico, an area he loved visiting, according to the anecdotes at the exhibit.

Although Adams is known for vast landscape photographs, many pictures display minute intricacies of everyday objects. His use of contrast transforms a still life photo of scissors and thread into something that captures your eye and forces you to see the objects in a new way.

The exhibit shows an intense interest in the beauty of things that have been weathered by time, including ruins in New Mexico and slowly disintegrating fences and statues. There are also a number of portraits of artists and authors whom Adams respected, including Georgia O'Keeffe and Mary Austin.

Adams found and captured the duality that exists in every part of life. For example, he shot a photograph of two decrepit houses sitting close together, with rolling hills and epic vistas in between. Such interesting contrasts can be found in numerous Adams photographs.

Also included in the display are some never-before-seen photos taken at the beginning of Adams' career, which illustrate how he progressed as an artist. These first images, however, are in soft focus and most are small prints that lack Adams' signature attention to detail.

The exhibit is unique because it has a varied collection of images, each of which is interesting in its own way.

The Ansel Adams exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave., will run daily until Dec. 31, except for Thanksgiving Day and Christmas. The exhibit is open from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Saturdays through Tuesdays, and from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesdays through Fridays. Student tickets are available for $13 at the museum's Web site, www.mfa.org, or by calling 617-542-4MFA.

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