Black, white photos come to life in Ansel Adams exhibition

Street scene at the Manzanar Relocation Center in California, spring, 1943. (Ansel Adams/Library of Congress/MCT)
Street scene at the Manzanar Relocation Center in California, spring, 1943. (Ansel Adams/Library of Congress/MCT)
By Paula Ann Solis
Staff Writer

His photos are only two colors – black and white. They seem simple in this age of digitized photography. The truth, however, is the work of Ansel Adams revolutionized the craft of photography by delivering more than images but a message for a better world.

Today that message will arrive at Baylor.

The Martin Museum of Art inside the Hooper-Schaefer Fine Arts Center will open its doors at 10 a.m. to showcase the traveling exhibition “Ansel Adams: Distance and Detail,” displaying the famous black and white photos of the late photographer.

Adams, a prominent San Francisco photographer from the early 1920s until his death in 1984, was well known for his abilities with a camera in natural settings, particularly national parks. The United States government was among the many to take note of his work, and in 1941, he was assigned to create a photo mural of the national park system.

His efforts, alongside the government, would lead to the naming of Kings Canyon as a national park in California.

Baylor’s exhibition of 29 iconic pieces by Adams, including his most famous piece, “Moonlight, Hernandez,” will remain on display until Nov. 14. Though Adams did do some color photography, all the photos on display are black and white and are an exploration of photography combined with a passion for environmentalism, said Susan Mullally, associate professor of art.

“First he was an artist, and as an environmentalist, he used the beauty of his work to convince the government to acquire a national park.”

Mullally also said this exhibit, which travels across the nation through funds provided by the Bank of America Arts and Culture Program, is only hosted by established museums with a record for showing fine art.

“This is going to be a very popular exhibition and not just with the student community. I was in Dallas for a lecture Saturday, and people were telling me how excited they were to come down for this.”

Mullally will host an open and informal luncheon to discuss Adams’ work with photography enthusiasts on Oct. 21. Other sessions include a Sept. 26 visit from University of Arizona’s Center for Creative Photography curator, Dr. Rebecca Senf, an expert in the works of Adams.

For those who are less familiar with Adams’ life and work, a 20-minute film will be shown at 3 p.m. each Wednesday and Thursday during the exhibit’s stay at Baylor in 149 Hooper-Schaefer Fine Arts Center.

“The film is free to watch and really shows the dedication and hard work Adams put into his work,” said Adair McGregor, the Martin Museum collections manager.

Mullally said she strongly urges the student body and Baylor community to come and enjoy the exhibit’s opening and the events during the next two months centered on the artwork.

“When I look at older work like this that was produced during the ’40s, you have to wonder why we’re still looking at it,” Mullally said. “The answer is because of its beauty, craftsmanship and the places he chose to explore as an artist. There’s a lot of power, and there’s a lot of beauty.”

Also opening today is an exhibit by artist and Yale professor Robert Reed titled “Galactic Journal.” His exhibition consists of contemporary paintings, drawings and collages.

The exhibit will run through Oct. 10. Reed will host a lecture at 4:30 p.m., Thursday in the Martin Museum followed by a reception open to the public.

To reserve a space for the Oct. 21 luncheon with Mullally, call 254-710-3503 by Oct. 11.