Sunday, 14 Jul 2024

Ansel Adams in Our Time

grand river mfa

See Ansel Adams through a contemporary lens

“Ansel Adams in Our Time” traces the iconic visual legacy of Ansel Adams (1902-1984), presenting some of his most celebrated prints. From a symphonic view of snow-dusted peaks in The Tetons and Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming (1942) to an aerial shot of a knotted roadway in Freeway Interchange, Los Angeles (1967), this exhibition offers a unique glimpse into Adams’ extraordinary body of work.

Inspiration and Legacy

While crafting his own modernist vision, Adams drew inspiration from pioneers in government survey and expedition photography, such as Carleton Watkins (1829-1916), Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904), Timothy O’Sullivan (1840-1882), and Frank Jay Haynes (1853-1921). These photographers ventured into the wilderness with large cameras and glass-plate negatives, capturing awe-inspiring images of natural landscapes. In some cases, Adams replicated their exact views of iconic locations like Yosemite Valley, Canyon de Chelly, and Yellowstone, immortalizing these places within the national consciousness.

One of Adams’ most famous photographs, “Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park” (about 1937), showcases the granite crags of the Yosemite Valley wreathed in clouds after a sudden storm. With unrivaled sensitivity and precision, Adams popularized the notion of the American West as a pristine and largely uninhabited wilderness.

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Contemporary Perspectives

“Ansel Adams in Our Time” also presents the work of contemporary artists who share Adams’ passion for the environment and its preservation. By juxtaposing Adams’ photographs with those of Mark Klett (born 1962), Trevor Paglen (born 1974), Catherine Opie (born 1961), Abelardo Morell (born 1948), Victoria Sambunaris (born 1964), and Binh Danh (born 1977), the exhibition explores the enduring relevance of Adams’ legacy in the 21st century.

Over 20 present-day photographers in the exhibition have not only been drawn to the same locations that inspired Adams but have also engaged with the central themes present in his work. These themes include desert and wilderness spaces, Native Americans and the Southwest, and broader environmental issues such as logging, mining, drought, fire, development, and urban sprawl.

Exhibition Details

The stunning images of Ansel Adams were last on view at the MFA in a major exhibition in 2005. This new presentation, even larger in scale, places Adams’ work in the context of the 21st century and highlights the evolving role of photography in shaping our perceptions of the land. The Adams photographs in the exhibition are drawn from the Lane Collection, making it one of the largest and most significant gifts in MFA history.

For more information on “Ansel Adams in Our Time” and to explore the world of photography and the environment, visit Eireview.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Who is Ansel Adams?

Ansel Adams (1902-1984) was a renowned American photographer known for his exceptional black-and-white landscape photographs, particularly of the American West. His work played a significant role in popularizing the idea of the pristine and untouched wilderness.

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2. What inspired Ansel Adams?

Ansel Adams drew inspiration from earlier photographers such as Carleton Watkins, Eadweard Muybridge, Timothy O’Sullivan, and Frank Jay Haynes. These photographers documented the natural landscapes of the American West using large cameras and glass-plate negatives.

3. How does “Ansel Adams in Our Time” connect his work with contemporary artists?

“Ansel Adams in Our Time” juxtaposes Adams’ photographs with the work of contemporary artists such as Mark Klett, Trevor Paglen, Catherine Opie, Abelardo Morell, Victoria Sambunaris, and Binh Danh. These artists share Adams’ concerns about the environment and explore similar themes in their own work.

4. What themes does the exhibition explore?

The exhibition explores various themes central to Adams’ legacy, including desert and wilderness spaces, Native Americans and the Southwest, and broader environmental issues such as logging, mining, drought, fire, development, and urban sprawl.

5. Where can I see “Ansel Adams in Our Time”?

“Ansel Adams in Our Time” is currently on view at the MFA. For more information and to plan your visit, please visit the Eireview website.


“Ansel Adams in Our Time” offers a captivating exploration of Ansel Adams’ visual legacy. By showcasing his iconic photographs alongside the work of contemporary artists, the exhibition highlights the enduring relevance of Adams’ vision and his profound impact on the field of photography. Visit the MFA and immerse yourself in the beauty and power of Adams’ timeless images.