Dates and Venue 10 Oct 2009 --14 Feb 2010 | The Tucson Museum of Art, Tucson, Arizona

Reviewer Patricia Cassidy

On January 2, I visited the Tucson Museum of Art to view the 138 photographs of Ansel Adams currently on display through February 14 and on loan from the Lynn and Tom Meredith collection. It was a treat to see so many photographs, at one time, of this great technical master of the black and white printing process.

We were fortunate to arrive when a tour of the collection was in progress so tagging along behind Ava, the knowledgeable guide, made for an even better viewing experience than if I had simple looked at them with my limited knowledge of photography.  We all know Ansel Adams' work, but I was surprised to learn his most famous photograph was not the beautiful “Moon over Half Dome in Yosemite” but “Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico” which he referred to as “his money shot” as it was his most popular image, and it helped him with his income.

At first glance I couldn’t see why it was so loved, but when I looked closer, and saw the church in the left fore ground, and the sun setting on the graveyard crosses on the right, with the mountains lit behind and the moon in that dark sky, I could see why.  As they say “chance favours the prepared mind” and he obviously was prepared that night.  He was 20 years old when he took some of these beautiful pictures. No wonder he was a consultant to Eastman Kodak and others early on in his career.

I loved the presentation of the photographs.  All with light wood frames and cream mats and the photographer’s notes on what he had in mind when the picture was taken.  The photographs included a variety of photos taken from 1920 through the early 80’s of his very prolific career. A lot of Yosemite, New Mexico and some National Park shots commissioned by the Park Service. There were pictures of the his colleagues Edward Reston, a flirtatious Georgia O’Keefe plus more thoughtful, bleak shots of the Manzanar area where Japanese Americans had to endure imprisonment  during World War II (the only time he really got political I understand).

I enjoyed the pictures of the San Francisco Bay Bridge area (before the Bridge) and some lovely arranged shots of a Rose and Driftwood composition, and a succulent, a black and white shot that reeked of color. A lot of the photographs to me were colourful and musical so it was no surprise for me to learn later that he had initially wanted to be a concert pianist.  I could feel the color in the black and white. When prompted, my husband, an avid photographer, said “Aspens, Northern New México” was probably his favourite photo because the conditions were just right for the shot - one beautiful Aspen, aglow in the fore ground, with light and darkness behind.  All of the photographs on display were printed by Adams in his darkroom in California.

The Tucson Art Museum is in the historic El Presidio Historic District of Downturn Tucson which features five distinctive houses build between 1850 and 1907. It was once a part of the walled fortress that was the beginning of Tucson, with a plush courtyard, waterfall and gardens. Apart from this current exhibition, the musem maintains a large permanent collection of the art of Latin America, Art of the American West and contemporary art.

Entrance to the Museum is free the first Sunday of every month and if you are a Bank of America customer it's free the first full weekend of every month.  A great deal!  I took a fleeting look at the Chinese ceramics on display elsewhere in the Museum but will have to return to see them along with the coming Warhol exhibit. Soon!

. © 2009 Patricia Cassidy