Remembering Ansel – and Chris!

by Scott Loftesness on October 7, 2012

Printed in Italy? Not what I might have expected. Maybe printed in Hong Kong, or China, or …? The wonderful new book about Ansel Adams by Andrea Stillman is – yep – printed in Italy. Published by long time Adams’ publisher Little, Brown – I wonder why it was “printed in Italy”? But, that’s just a curiosity.

The book itself is a delight. “Looking at Ansel Adams: The Photographs and the Man” shares Stillman’s insights and perspectives as Adams’ former assistant. She’s selected twenty of his photographs for exploration in the book. “Ten of the twenty are among what I call Ansel’s ‘greatest hits'”, she writes. But she also includes ten others – less familiar Adams’ images. Her scope is just right.

In the 1930’s – early in this career – Ansel maintained a studio at Allied Arts and photographed many of its buildings and gardens. Two years ago this month, my late friend and InMenlo co-founder Chris Gulker and I drove south from Menlo Park to take in a unique exhibition of Ansel Adams prints at the Monterey Museum of Art. It was a very special trip for the two of us – Chris was a very talented black and white photographer and he was an avid student of Adams’ work. I walked Chris through the exhibition in his wheel chair – taking it slow and listening to his commentary on each photograph along the way. He blogged about it.

Along the way, we met up with the owner of the exhibition’s “Museum Set” – Adams’ daughter Anne Adams Helms. She was spending a few hours at the museum and enjoyed talking about her Dad. Chris asked about the difference in the way Adams printed his images over the course of his lifetime – and Anne talked about how the prints evolved to be darker late in his life. Listening to Anne and Chris talk about the exhibition was very special.

One of Chris’ favorite Adams’ images is perhaps Adams’ best known – Moonrise. In the book, Stillman tells the story of this image – illustrating the evolution of Adams’ prints as he darkened the image over the years. The print of Moonrise at the exhibition was one of the darker ones – the Museum Sets having been printed late in his life. Chris just loved it – perhaps his most favorite image.

I learned a lot about Ansel Adams and black and white photography from this trip to Monterey with Chris as we shared our feelings about the special black and white imagery of Ansel Adams. Stillman’s personal remembrances in her new book bring back those memories to me again. This book is a very special work – highly recommended!

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