An American icon

Ansel Adams – Photography from the Mountains to the Sea is being installed in the USA Gallery at the museum, it opens to the public on Thursday 4 July.

Three museum staff members installing photographs

Installing Ansel Adams photographs. (L to R) Stephen, museum preparator; Will, museum conservator; and Matthew Del Grosso, Collection Specialist from Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts.

The vintage prints, from the hand of the photographer, explore his fascination with photographing water in nature, and developing techniques to capture the movement of waves, waterfalls and geysers previously hidden to the human eye. I especially like looking into the black parts of the photographs and seeing that they are actually full of very dark details.

Adams was a committed conservationist. His photographs, taken from the 1920s up to the early 1980s popularised the extraordinary natural heritage of the United States, ‘from the mountains to the sea’.

Man with tape measure next to photo on wall gesturing to the camera with open hand

We can only imagine Stephen is saying ‘Come to the museum to see the exhibition!’

There’s an interesting parallel here with Australia, where until recently, photography was often the first, and sometimes only way people learned about our vast country.

I’m surprised that many of the more famous shots are quite small, I think they loom large in the mind’s eye because of their familiarity.

It’d be tempting to find a corner somewhere and spend time examining them in minute detail, but then we might never open, so on with the install.

Richard Wood
Curator, USA Gallery

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