Inviting visitors to view the American photographer’s signature “images in a new light,” the Booth Western Art Museum will unveil “Ansel Adams: Before & After” Saturday.
“It’s something that we organized with the help of Lumiere Gallery in Atlanta, which is one of the best photography galleries in the Southeast, if not the whole country,” said Seth Hopkins, executive director of the Booth Western Art Museum. “[The exhibit] really came about as the result of some discussions we ... had with two or three of the living contemporary photographers that are in the exhibition, particularly Bob Kolbrener, about showing some of his work and some of the other living photographers, and the fact that it might be difficult to publicize that type of exhibition without a marquee name like Ansel Adams.
“So what kind of started as a how do we get people to come to an exhibition of work by contemporary photographers and talking with the folks at Lumiere evolved into trying to do another Ansel Adams exhibition. But this one, instead of being all of his work, [will put] Ansel Adams in context with all the other photographers in the 20th century by selecting key images from some of the most important ones before Ansel became a photographer, some of his peers and then some of the best living photographers that we could secure works by to create the exhibition.”
Located in the Temporary Exhibition Gallery, “Ansel Adams: Before & After” will feature more than 100 images and be on display through March 20, 2016.
“Included are some of the most iconic Ansel Adams images of all time, [such as] ‘Moonrise, Hernandez,’ ‘Winter Sunset’ [and] ‘Mount Williamson,’” Hopkins said. “... These are just classic Ansel images that people would immediately recognize if they know his work at all. We attempted to bring in some other works that are a little less known to show a good range of his work. Most of the Ansel Adams’ works in this exhibition were loaned by his granddaughter, Virginia Adams Mayhew.”
Known for his black-and-white Western landscapes, Adams and his work will be the exhibit’s centerpiece, but the images of other photographers also will be showcased. “Ansel Adams: Before & After” will include pieces from artists, ranging from those who influenced Adams’ career, such as Alfred Stieglitz and Paul Strand, to contemporary photographers, like Kolbrener and Cole Weston.
“It means photographers who came before Ansel, like Edward Weston and Paul Strand and Alfred Stieglitz, who kind of paved the way for photography to be accepted as a fine art and set the stage for Ansel to become the household name that he did become,” Hopkins said, referring to the meaning behind the exhibit’s title, “Ansel Adams: Before & After.” “They were influential in his career from a technical standpoint in showing things that can be done with photography that people hadn’t seen before and also encouraging him early in his career to experiment and do new things and think of photography as an art, not just a documentary tool.
“And then ‘after’ being the living photographers of today, some of whom in the exhibition were directly influenced by him, took classes from Ansel or worked for him as an instructor in his workshops or were encouraged by him personally. ... [Even] those who never actually met him but who are working today, they have to acknowledge Ansel Adams and his legacy. It’s impossible to ignore. He’s the most famous name in photography. So you’re always going to be somewhat compared to him or contrasted to his work. So any photographer has to come to grips with Ansel Adams’ legacy and how do they differentiate themselves.”
In viewing the exhibit, Hopkins hopes patrons will discover a broader picture of Adams’ career and legacy.
“Ansel Adams didn’t spontaneously combust as this great photographer in a vacuum,” he said. “There were influential people in his life and in his career who set the stage or who physically and literally interacted with him and influenced his career choice and the way he went about making his photographs. ... [We also want people to know] that there are incredible photographers out there working throughout this country today who are making incredible images in the tradition of Ansel Adams, but we just don’t know their names. They’re not household names like Adams. He cast such a large shadow that we want to try to identify who some of those photographers are and bring their work to the public’s attention.”
Based on the success of the venue’s first Ansel Adams’ exhibit, Booth officials are expecting this offering to draw a large audience from inside and outside Bartow County. On display from September 2010 through early 2011, “Ansel Adams: A Legacy” exceeded expectations, bringing increased visitation and awareness from the Atlanta market. The exhibit, which featured 130 prints that provided guests an immersive and intimate look into the late American photographer’s career, helped the museum top 50,000 visitors in 2010.
“The ‘Ansel Adams: A Legacy’ exhibition that we had in 2010 and 2011 was a milestone for the museum, not only for the record of attendance but it also inspired the creation of our Booth Photography Guild. It led to an increased presence of photography in our collection and in our exhibitions,” said Tom Shinall, Booth’s director of marketing. “So building on that momentum is where the concept for ‘Ansel Adams: Before & After’ came from. With that being said, we did not want to recreate the same exhibit we had five years ago. We knew we had to do something different, something exciting and build on that. So with the original exhibition being a collection of his works, this exhibit is special in the fact that it highlights over 100 images from 27 different photographers, including Ansel Adams’ predecessors, peers and contemporary photographers.
“We have high expectations for this exhibition. ... We hope to have better numbers, even better than that [first] one did — that record-breaking year in attendance. ... We know that there is a buzz. Guest Services is fielding phone calls daily on the opening of the exhibit, the special events correlated with it,” he said, referring to offerings, such as the sold-out lecture featuring Adams’ son, Dr. Michael Adams, on Saturday evening. “So we know that there’s already excitement for it before it opens. And it being an exhibit that’s going to run mid-November through mid-March, we really are looking forward to a very busy winter here at Booth Western Art Museum.”
Located at 501 Museum Drive, the Booth is known worldwide for its extensive collection of contemporary Western art, holding the distinction of housing the largest permanent exhibition space for Western art in the nation. The 120,000-square-foot museum, which became an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution in 2006, offers a variety of exhibit spaces, some of which include the Civil War gallery, Sculpture Court, a presidential gallery and the interactive children’s gallery, Sagebrush Ranch. Opened in 2003, the Booth museum welcomed its 500,000th visitor June 4.
For more information about the Booth and its exhibits and programs, call 770-387-1300 or visit http://boothmuseum.org.
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