‘Ansel Adams: A Legacy’ exhibit closes April 14

by MARGA LINCOLN Independent Record April 2, 2013

It’s been one of the Holter Museum of Art’s most popular exhibits ever, and folks keep coming.

But procrastinators beware, time is running out.

“Ansel Adams: A Legacy” closes Sunday, April 14, but it’s not too late to spend some quality time with the work of this iconic American photographer and environmentalist.

And more events are planned for the closing week.

Photographer Jeff Van Tine will lead two tours of his Carroll College photography students, one at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday, April 9, and one at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 10, and the public can join the tours and discussion.

Van Tine’s focus will be what makes a great photograph and critiquing Ansel Adams’ work.

Beginning at 5 p.m. Friday, April 12, the Holter throws a farewell party for the Adams’ exhibit, which then heads off to the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

Holter executive director Caleb Fey says there will definitely be music and dancing in the Baucus Gallery that night and all are welcome.

As of March 27, 1,562 had attended the special Ansel Adams’ talks and tours at the Holter, led by Montana photographers, beginning back in January. Another 2,778 visitors toured the gallery on their own.

“The participation numbers are great,” said Fey. More people have visited than just the 4,340 counted because some days there were no volunteers to count attendees.

“A lot of people love that they have access to this work and can enjoy Ansel Adams’ famous black-and-white photos,” Fey said. “A number of people came who also saw the exhibit in Missoula and commented they liked that it was displayed differently here.”

Some of the students who’ve toured the exhibit with their classes returned later with their parents in tow, he said. “And the Park Service folks came in and absolutely loved it.”

The exhibit, which opened Jan. 18, consists of more than 130 of Adams’ gelatin silver prints on loan from the collection of Lynn and Tommie Meredith of Austin, Texas.

Adams was one of the 10 major photographers of the 20th century, according to the original curator of the collection, Andy Grundberg of the Corcoran College of Art and Design.

“You don’t see this large a collection of his work even in major cities like Chicago, New York and San Francisco,” said Holter education curator Sondra Hines.

That’s one reason a number of area photographers have been “geekin’ out” — often visiting the exhibit several times, according to Hines. They’ve also shared their passion and knowledge of Adams’ work by leading tours and giving talks.

Some of these talks are slated to appear on the Holter website, as soon as they can be edited.

“I didn’t know he was a concert pianist and could have chosen that as a career, instead,” said Hines, of one of the things she discovered from the talks.

AnselAdamsLegacy“He was very passionate about what he did,” she said of his photography. “He loved what he did and influenced so many people — yet he had so much freshness in what he did. He was a great teacher who enjoyed passing on his expertise.”

Fey was fascinated by physician and photographer Richard Buswell’s talk about Adams’ medical conditions — insomnia, hypochondria and ADHD (attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder). “I loved his talk,” said Fey, noting that Adams’ handicapping conditions also contributed to his creativity.

Fey, who trained as a photographer, was also struck by “how important a focus and clarity of vision can be” in one’s life, and the persistence of Adams’ vision.

“When I was studying photography, we used a lot of Ansel Adams’ recipes for chemicals and developers,” Fey said. Adams was meticulous in his research and amazingly open and generous in sharing it with others through his books and classes.

“I think we’re really lucky to have that collection come to Helena, Montana,” said Van Tine.

“Adams dove into all aspects of photography and mastered all of them,” he said. Although Adams had a scientific mind, he was one of the rare persons who also really understood art, composition and light.

He took between 40,000 and 50,000 negatives in his life, but printed only about 1,200 of them, Van Tine said. Most people know 200 to 250 of them.

Adams’ work bridged a generation of photography — from using glass plates to the dawn of digital photography.

Van Tine is particularly impressed with Adams’ passion and commitment to nature and environ-mental protection. Adams served on the Sierra Club board for 33 years and was also active in the Wilderness Society.

Adams photos were used in Congress to argue for preservation of national parks and wild lands.

A few of his famous works were “Moon and Half Dome” and “Moonrise, Hernandez,” both of which are in the exhibit.

“I grew up loving big, huge prints,” said Van Tine, noting Adams’ influence on him. Van Tine’s own huge print of the Rocky Mountain Front hangs in the Holter’s Sherman gallery in the “Montana’s Living Landscape” exhibit, which also closes April 14. “His love of nature and preserving wild places rubbed off on me.

“Back when I was shooting film, I used the zone system,” said Van Tine, which was Adams’ famous system for determining the optimal time for film exposure and development time.

Van Tine hopes his students and those on his tour will walk away from the exhibit with “a better feel for what makes a good photograph, as far as lighting and composition and what tools he (Adams) used to catch the viewer’s attention.”

One thing that Adams was noted for was his skill at visualizing the final photo image. This skill is particularly amazing because Adams was looking through a large-format viewfinder camera, which showed the scene backwards and upside down.

“A great photo,” said Adams, “is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed.”

Adams’ photos let the viewer see into his soul, said Van Tine.

The past few weeks, photographer Kurt Keller has been at the Holter sharing with Helena fourth- and fifth-graders not only Adams’ landscapes, but also his portraits and the type of equipment Adams used.

Like Adams they peer into a similar large format viewfinder camera, compose a portrait shot of class-mates and then develop it in the darkroom.

“What’s really neat about this exhibit,” said Keller, “is most people know his landscapes but don’t know his portraits. Here we have a wide variety of what he did throughout his career.

“The one thing I’ve enjoyed is how many people have come down to the exhibit and how many have come to the talks.”