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In commemoration of the one-hundredth anniversary of his birth, Ansel Adams at 100 presents an intriguing new look at this distinguished photographer's work. The legendary curator John Szarkowski, director emeritus of the Department of Photography at New York's Museum of Modern Art, has painstakingly selected what he considers Adams' finest work and has attempted to find the single best photographic print of each.
Szarkowski writes that "Ansel Adams at 100 is the product of a thorough review of work that Adams, at various times in his career, considered important. It includes many photographs that will be unfamiliar to lovers of Adams' work, and a substantial number that will be new to Adams scholars. The book is an attempt to identify that work on which Adams' claim as an important modern artist must rest." Ansel Adams at 100-the highly acclaimed international exhibition and the book, with Szarkowski's incisive critical essay-is the first serious effort since Adams' death in 1984 to reevaluate his achievement as an artist.
The exhibition prints, drawn from important public and private collections, have been meticulously reproduced in tritone to create the splendid plates in this edition, faithfully rendering the nuances of the original prints. Ansel Adams at 100 is the definitive book on this great American artist. John Szarkowski is director emeritus of the Department of Photography, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. He is the author of such classic works as Looking at Photographs, The Photographer's Eye, Photography Until Now, and Atget, as well as several books of his own photographs, including the recently reissued The Idea of Louis Sullivan.
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 Previously unpublished examples of Adams's early images show how he worked through the day, using changing light and different vantage points to interpret a subject.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
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