In a culture diluted by cover photos, profile “pics” and uploaded images, seeing the efforts of a real photographer is a refreshing reprieve. Kalamazoo recently welcomed the work of Ansel Adams to the city, one of America’s most well-known photographers. The exhibition, “Sightand Feeling: Photographs by Ansel Adams,” which opened January 26th, runs through May 19th at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts (KIA).
The museum features twenty-three of Adams’ landscapes from places in the American southwest, Colorado, California, and Alaska. His striking photographs demonstrate a talent for tonal delicacy in black and white pictures. Pieces like “Clearing the Storm,” “The Black Sun,” and “Dunes” in particular highlight the sharp focus and play between light and shadow characteristic of Adams.
|"Clearing the Storm"|
An antique accordion camera, similar to the one Adams used, is also on display and might be of particular interest to younger art-goers. Living in the digital age, it is impressive to see such crisp high-quality images not composed of pixels or stored on a memory card.
The KIA also offers patrons engaging insights into Adams’ biography and technique with the various placards throughout the exhibit. For example, one learns how Adams is positioned in the modernist aesthetic movement with his involvement in “Group f/64”: seven San Franciscan photographers committed to artistic realism. Another note details Adams use of filters to create more dramatic contrast; including the same image with and without the filter shows what a difference the filter makes and illustrates Adams’ skill at effective composition.
For such a high-profile artist like Adams, one assumes a prominent display of his work. However, the exhibit is relegated to the lower-floor of the museum along a narrow hallway. The stark white walls in combination with the white matting of each photograph seem to diminish the images.
The biggest detriment, though, is the glass-case filled with artifacts unrelated to Adams’ work. This separate display divides the area of the exhibit. The photographs must be viewed from such an angle as to avoid the reflection of a gold plate or clay idol in the Canyon de Chelly or the Yosemite Valley. The bright showcase lighting presents a similar problem, distracting the viewer from the actual image.
Nevertheless, this exhibition represents an appreciation for the mastery of one’s craft. Hopefully visitors will come away from it realizing that art is not produced through a simple ‘click’ of the camera.