Ansel Adams: Revelations

The Ransom Center exhibition 'Ansel Adams: A Legacy' lets you experience the works of the best-known of American photographers as art rather than commerce

<i>Dunes, Oceano, California, 1963</i>
Dunes, Oceano, California, 1963

If you don't know the name, you know the images: craggy mountains rising into cloud-streaked skies; moons and slivers of moons hanging in the void; rolling sands, rippling in light and shadow, movement from stillness; revelations of nature in all its power and beauty.

<i>Rose and Driftwood, San Francisco, 1932</i><br>© Trustees of the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust
Rose and Driftwood, San Francisco, 1932
© Trustees of the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

Without question, Ansel Adams is the best-known of American photographers. His images adorn everything from coffee mugs to calendars to mouse pads to screen savers, but while you may recognize his work in a commercial sense, truly experiencing his art is a different matter. Above and beyond being a tremendously successful businessman, a seminal environmentalist, and a great technician, Adams was an artist. Now, through Jan. 1, 2006, you can experience the photographer as artist by visiting "Ansel Adams: A Legacy" at the University of Texas' Harry Ransom Center.

"During the last decades of his life, he dedicated himself to printing a lot of negatives he hadn't printed and producing new prints of things he already had," says David Coleman, the curator of the exhibition. "The pictures are darker, with much more contrast, and they are much more dramatic.

"This show was put together many years ago by Ansel as a cultural exchange between San Francisco and Shanghai, and it became the property of the Friends of Photography, which was an organization co-founded by Ansel that promoted photography as a fine art. FOP folded in 2001, and this collection was going to be put on the auction block to pay the organization's debts. Fortunately for all of us, Austinites Tom and Lynn Meredith purchased it together as one unit."

And the general public are the beneficiaries. As part of the exhibition, Coleman will give a tour on Friday, Nov. 4, at 6pm. In addition, on Wednesday, Nov. 16, at 7pm, Don Olson, professor of physics and astronomy at Texas State University, will give a lecture titled "The Moonrise Photographs of Ansel Adams." "Ansel was not overly concerned about dating his photographs," says Coleman. "It's very difficult to pin it down on a lot of them, and people love this aspect of astronomers dating his moon photographs." Both events are free and open to the general public.

"Ansel Adams: A Legacy" continues through Jan. 1 at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center on the UT campus. For more information, visit

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Ansel Adams: A Legacy, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, Harry Ransom Center, David Coleman, Friends of Photography, Tom Meredith, Lyn Meredith, Don Olson, Texas State University, The Moonrise Photographs of Ansel Adams

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