Ansel Adams • The Museum Set

The Saginaw Art Museum Showcases the Power & Beauty of a Legendary Photographer

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Artist Feature,   From Issue 819   By: Robert E Martin

26th November, 2015     0

The Saginaw Art Museum is currently showcasing a definitive exhibition featuring the work of ground-breaking photographer Ansel Adams that will run through January 7th and features a collection of forty-nine works by this visionary artist, which constitutes nearly two-thirds of a selection that Adams made late in his life in order to serve as a succinct representation of his life’s work.

Called “The Museum Set,” these works reveal the importance Adams placed on both the drama and splendor of natural environments that might not have revealed their secrets to the ordinary passing hiker. Included are many of Adams’ most famous and best-loved photographs, which encompass the full scope of his work: elegant details of nature, architectural studies, portraits, and the breathtaking landscapes for which he is revered. The exhibition also includes a photo portrait of Ansel Adams by James Alinder, which is featured on the cover of this current edition of The Review.

The origins of this exhibition date back to August of 1978, when Gallery owner Maggi Weston of Carmal, California approached Ansel Adams with a concept for what was to become the Museum Set Edition of Fine Prints.

Adams had wanted a way to make his most important and favorite images available to a wide range of institutions, and Maggi’s proposal became the perfect solution. Originally, the Museum Set was conceived as a master set of 2500 prints created from 70 images selected by Adams. Though he was able to complete a substantial number of the prints, Adams death in 1984 curtailed the long range plans for this project. The collection was later donated to The Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding California by Dr. Fidel Realyvasquez, who organized this exhibit in association with Landau Traveling Exhibitions in Los Angeles.

When asked what she feels are distinguishing qualities with Adams’ work that sets him apart from other notable & contemporary photographers, Saginaw Art Museum Curator Alyssa DePlonty sites two primary factors. “First, his use of large format cameras and his printing technique, which produced silver gelatin photographs; and secondly, his unwavering patience with obtaining the perfect photograph.”

“Adams was incredibly skilled in many areas,” she continues, “and not only understood how to best utilize a large format camera, but also how to find the best light at the correct time of day. He cherished the outdoors, and the areas that became part of the National Park Service. This is why you see such contrast of light in his work – he waited for his perfect opportunity to capture each image.”

While his biggest mark was undeniably the naturalistic photography that patented his unique high-contrast black & white style of photography, DePlonty points out that his work also evolved into other arenas.

“As you walk through Ansel Adams: Masterworks here at the Saginaw Art Museum, you’ll notice that not every photograph is of the typical landscape that Adams’ was known for,” she explains. “He focused on other areas as well – such as portraits and architecture. His work did vary and evolve throughout his life, as is common with most artists. However, his landscapes are still considered among his highest photographic achievements. I do not have an exact number as to how many photographs he took in his lifetime, but I imagine it was a considerable amount to get just the right image he was aiming for.”

“I personally feel that his strongest works are his photographs taken in the National Parks, particularly in Yosemite, “she concludes.  “Yosemite had special meaning to Adams’ – he vacationed there with his family and developed his love of photography by beginning to take photos there.”

“I think that personal connection shines through his work.”

The Saginaw Art Museum is open Tuesday – Saturday, 10 am-5 pm, with additional hours for special events and programming. Visit for additional hours. For more information please call 989-754-2491.



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