Photographic Prints By
Text and Images Courtesy of Phoenix Art Museum

Ansel Adams: Performing the Print illustrates how the 20th-century’s foremost American photographer often created multiple prints from a single negative in pursuit of the fullest expression of the view as he imagined it. 

Above: Ansel Adams, Early Morning, Merced River Canyon, Yosemite National Park, California, ca. 1950.

From January 11 through June 7, 2020, Phoenix Art Museum will present Ansel Adams: Performing the Print, an exhibition of works by one of the 20th century’s foremost photographers, in the Doris and John Norton Family Photography Gallery. Featuring 60 photographs drawn from the Ansel Adams Archive at the Center for Creative Photography (CCP) at the University of Arizona, Performing the Print spans six decades and presents sets of prints grouped in twos and threes to demonstrate how Adams often created multiple prints of varying interpretations from his own negatives. The exhibition is the most recent collaboration between Phoenix Art Museum and CCP, which was co- founded in 1975 by Adams and then-University of Arizona president John Schaefer.

“We are pleased to present Ansel Adams: Performing the Print to our audiences in Arizona,” said Gilbert Vicario, the Museum’s Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs and the Selig Family Chief Curator. “The exhibition offers an intimate view into Adams’ artistic process that will intrigue both longtime admirers of his work as well as those who will experience his photographs for the first time in our galleries.”

Above: Ansel Adams, Spanish-American Youth, Chama Valley, New Mexico, ca. 1937.

An acclaimed photographer best known for his black-and-white images of the American West, Adams famously said that the photographic negative is like a composer’s score while the print is the performance. In Performing the Print, the artist’s choices about cropping, brightness, and overall contrast are illuminated, as multiple prints created using the same negative are showcased side by side, with several accompanied by quotations from the artist’s writings sourced from various publications to provide context. For example, a portrait of Nobutaro Harry Sumida, a naval veteran of the Spanish-American war who was the oldest resident at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in the early 1940s, is accompanied by the artist’s notes on the Japanese-American internment camp. The pairing documents an important aspect of American history while demonstrating the link between Adams’ printed works and written word.

The exhibition also features portraits of painter Georgia O’Keeffe and photographer Alfred Stieglitz, well-known images of national parks such as Yosemite National Park and Sequoia National Park, and photographs from Hawaii, Cape Cod, and Alaska. In addition, viewers are invited to examine Adams’ role as an educator, while considering how his approach evolved as his own perspective, available materials, and the field of photography transformed during his lifetime.

Above: Ansel Adams, Arches, North Court, Mission San Xavier del Bac, Tucson, Arizona, 1968.

“The photographs in Performing the Print highlight Adams’ sensitivity as a photographic printer,” said Rebecca A. Senf, PhD, chief curator at the Center for Creative Photography, who formerly served as the Museum’s Norton Family Curator of Photography, and author of a forthcoming book on the artist entitled Making a Photographer: The Early Work of Ansel Adams. “Viewers are encourarged to discover how each hand-made print portrays a landscape expressed through the lens of Adams’ imagination.”

Over the past 13 years, the Museum and CCP have organized nearly 40 exhibitions, bringing outstanding works of 20th-century and contemporary photography to wider audiences in Arizona. Ansel Adams: Performing the Print is the first exhibition at Phoenix Art Museum solely devoted to the renowned American photographer since The Process and the Page in 2014.


Ansel Adams: Performing the Print
January 11 – June 7
Phoenix Art Museum