I also recently visited the Museum of History & Industry in Seattle to preview the new photo exhibit by the famous Ansel Adams, American landscape photographer (1902-84) — titled: Ansel Adams: Masterpieces — opening this Saturday (May 25-Sept. 5).
“Not only was he a master of composition, exposure, tonal quality, but he was also an incredible master of the printing process,” enthused Leonard Garfieldexecutive director of MOHAI, when he led me through the dark showroom (the dim lighting is to protect the photos from ultraviolet damage).
Overwhelmed by the sublime views of craggy rocks and snow-capped peaks, I felt a draw towards the nuances revealed by this technical feat: the mist between the trees, the billowing clouds and the ethereal light streaming down from the sky.
A passionate environmentalist, Adams often aimed his lens at the American West. The show includes some of his greatest hits in this genre, taken in Yosemite National Park, Monument Valley in Arizona and Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
I asked Garfield if there was a Pacific Northwest connection as well. “He didn’t spend that much time in the Northwest, unfortunately,” Garfield said, as he led me to the show’s only “local” photo. Taken at Mount Rainier National Park circa 1942, the photo shows a cool fern in the darker shrubbery, dewdrops dotting the leaves. It’s just called “Leaves”.
I told Garfield that I was surprised that Adams was focusing on a fern, when the most majestic mountain of all (at least in my opinion) was just there. “For me, the Northwest is the undergrowth,” he replied. “There is this magnificent canopy that allows nature to constantly reinvent itself, if you will, season after season. And he kind of captured that.