Past Exhibition

Ansel Adams: Pure Photography

Ansel Adams, Leaves, Stump, Frost, Yosemite Valley, 1932 Gelatin silver print, Gift of Mrs. Margaret McKittrick, 1968 Museum number 2229.23PH

Ansel Adams is one of the first names that springs to mind when people think about photography. This exhibition of sixteen prints from the museum’s collection, augmented with two promised gifts, concentrates on the photographs that Adams made around 1932, before he became a household name.

In the late 1920s, Adams shifted away from the soft-edged style of pictorialism, prominent in the early twentieth century, toward hard-edged modernism. In 1932, he and several of his San Francisco Bay Area compatriots formed Group f/64 and issued a manifesto declaring their dedication to “pure photography.” For Adams, that meant a commitment to the precision of the camera; use of glossy, high-contrast photo paper; and visualization of the final image before releasing the shutter.

Ansel Adams: Pure Photography includes close-up nature studies, portraits, and views of architecture Adams made during this formative time. A small selection of later photographs, including two of his most iconic prints, Aspens, New Mexico and Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico. The artist’s hard work and ambition come to fruition in these later images, illustrating how his work of the 1930s developed into the mature style for which he is internationally celebrated.


The Early Photographs of Ansel Adams with Dr. Rebecca Senf


In this lecture, Rebecca Senf talks about Adams’s early years as a photographer as he worked to support his family, develop his technical expertise, and discover his unique artistic voice. This program is presented in conjunction with the museum’s exhibition Ansel Adams: Pure Photography. Dr. Rebecca Senf is Chief Curator at the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona in Tucson and author of numerous publications, including her recent book Making a Photographer: The Early Work of Ansel Adams.


Educational Activity:

Ansel Adams/Pure Photography Worksheet