In Focus: Ansel Adams at the Getty Center (March 18 - July 20, 2014)

Ansel Adams portrait by J. Malcolm Greany
Detail of Ansel Adams portrait by J. Malcolm Greany | Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Ansel Adams (1902–1984) was one of the most influential photographers of the twentieth century, a master maker of photographic prints that inspired a wide appreciation for the medium as an art form and for wilderness as a national treasure. Beginning in the 1940s, his images gained widespread recognition and Ansel Adams became synonymous with an instantly-recognized style of landscape photography: large-format negatives, sharp focus, and no re-touching or manipulation in the darkroom.

In Focus: Ansel Adams offers a close-up look at some of the renowned photographer’s favorite images from his six-decade career. The exhibit is on view at the world-famous Getty Center in Brentwood from March 18 to July 20, 2014. Organized by Karen Hellman, assistant curator in the Department of Photographs at the Getty Museum, In Focus is the first exhibition of Adams’ work at the Getty Museum and marks the thirtieth anniversary of his death.

The exhibition is the result of a 2011 donation of an Ansel Adams Museum Set of twenty-five photographs by Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin. In 1979, towards the end of his career, Adams initiated the production of what he entitled The Museum Set Edition of Fine Prints. With the help of Maggi Weston at the Weston Gallery in Carmel, California, Adams selected just seventy images from an archive of thousands of negatives that he himself would print. The “complete” Museum Set includes images from the beginning to the end of his career - both the earliest from 1921 and the latest from 1968 are of Yosemite Valley. 

Collectors could purchase a “complete” set of all seventy prints, or they could pick their own set of twenty-five images from those offered, on the condition that they eventually donate the set to a museum or educational institution. Adams intended to make one hundred sets in total, but died in 1984 before he reached that goal. Assembled and printed by the photographer himself at the end of his extraordinary career, the Museum Sets offer an understanding of how Adams reflected back on his work in order to shape his legacy.

Detail of Ansel Adams “The Tetons and the Snake River” (1942) Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. | Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

In this exhibition, Museum Set photographs are placed beside prints from the Getty Museum’s collection made earlier in the photographer’s career, providing a unique opportunity to observe how Adams’ printing style evolved over the decades. “The Museum Set works in the Getty exhibition are compelling, not only because they are some of the last photographs Adams produced, but because they provide a fascinating juxtaposition with prints made at other points in his career,” explains Hellman. “From the beginning, Adams actively promoted his work by making portfolios. After he joined the Sierra Club in 1919, Adams became the official photographer for the club’s hiking trips and created albums of these images for sale to club members. Between 1948 and 1976, he published seven other limited edition portfolios that were highly praised."

In Focus: Ansel Adams is on view at the Getty Center from March 18 to July 20, 2014. For more information, visit

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