Exhibit highlights artistry of photographer Ansel Adams

— The subject of the four photographs is the same -- the peak of Mount Robson in the Canadian Rockies, taken by a young Ansel Adams during a trip with the Sierra Club in 1928.

But each image is different, reflecting changes in light, weather and vantage point. The images also show a different Adams than the photographer who evolved into the man known for dramatic prints and conservation advocacy.

"Ansel Adams at 100," which opened July 11 at the Museum of Modern Art's temporary gallery in Queens, focuses on 113 of the photographer's works from the 1920s to the 1950s. The show emphasizes that he started photography as someone "whose very original vision and work was very much a private experience," said Peter Galassi, chief curator of the department of photography at MoMA.

In his later years, Adams returned to his old negatives and reprinted the images, changing the interplay of light and dark to create dramatic images that spoke eloquently for the protection of the West's natural beauty.

But when he first started, "he wasn't making the picture to convince any one of anything," Galassi said. "They were really about this very ephemeral experience of changing light and weather and the emotional ... responding to nature in that way."

The black-and-white images range from the Grand Canyon and Old Faithful to Broad Street in New York City. Adams photographed everything from mountains to waves to blades of grass.

Born in February 1902 in San Francisco, Adams visited Yosemite National Park for the first time in 1916, taking photos on a Kodak Brownie camera. He joined the Sierra Club in 1919 and began making albums of the shots he took on the club's outings in 1925. He became director of the organization in 1934 and remained in that position until 1971.

He also published a number of articles and books, and helped found the photography department at the Museum of Modern Art. Adams received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980. He died in April 1984.

MoMA Queens is the last stop for the exhibit, which started at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in August 2001 and traveled to Chicago, London, Berlin and Los Angeles, marking the centenary of Adams' birth. It runs through Nov. 3 and is accompanied by lectures and gallery talks.


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