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Ansel Adams at 100    by Ansel Adams & John Szarkowski order for
Ansel Adams at 100
by Ansel Adams
Order:  USA  Can
Bulfinch, 2003 (2003)
Hardcover, Softcover
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Ansel Adams' site says about this elegant collection, 'Written to accompany a major international exhibition of his work, Ansel Adams at 100 is destined to be the definitive book on this master photographer.' We are told that it includes many photographs new to fans, and even scholars, of Adams' life work. Ansel Adams died in 1984.

Contents were selected by John Szarkowski of New York's Museum of Modern Art. In his opening essay, Szarkowski discusses the challenge of photographing the chaos of the natural world. He quotes William James, who tells us that 'artists of the wild landscapes' produce 'an evolving sketch of order out of the great farrago.' Szarkowski writes a literary, intuitive biography of Adams, the best of many that I've read. He shows us an artist, essentially an optimist, often out of step with his times, marching to his own High Sierra drummer. Szarkowski tells us that though Adams took photos 'as a form of private worship', in the process he enlarged 'our emotional knowledge of the natural world'.

The cover photograph reminds me of the sere beauty of the Ice Storm that ravaged Montreal in 1998. Many of the photos are familiar to those who love Adams' art. As a whole, the collection conveyed to me a moodiness in nature, through seasons and storms, in high and low places, in sunlight and shadow, the transient and the (relatively) permanent. I love Adams' photos of wind-blown grasses, clouds reflected in lake mirrors, varied textures in tree and rock surfaces. The power of water is shown in falls, geysers and ocean surf. There's a tree in #38, 'In the Sierra Nevada' that's reminiscent of Tolkien's ents, and #32, 'Lakes and Cliffs, Sierra Nevada', seems surreal. #75, 'Rocks and Grass, Moraine Lake, Sequoia National Park' reminds me of the raked sand and carefully placed rocks used in Zen meditation.

If you're a fan of the artist's work, then you'll covet this lovely coffee table book, Ansel Adams at 100. It brings nature, from Ansel Adams' unique perspective, alive and into your home.

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