Picture Desk: The Faraway

Georgia O’Keeffe and Orville Cox by Ansel Adams

In September, I took a trip to New Mexico with a friend. The expanse of sky in the Southwest was as much of an attraction as the green-chili peach pie, and we spent a great deal of time simply staring at it. Exploring Canyon de Chelly on horseback, I watched the clouds approach and grow dark.

The scene reminded me one of my favorite photographs, taken in 1937, by Ansel Adams. The photograph above (which I have tacked to my wall at home) shows the painter Georgia O’Keeffe engaged in conversation with Orville Cox, the head wrangler at Ghost Ranch, on the rim of Canyon de Chelly. Adams and O’Keeffe were part of a group of friends that had organized a monthlong camping trip, during which both artists created new work. Orville Cox acted as their guide.

The location of this photograph was of particular significance, with Adams once remarking, “Some of my best photographs have been made in and on the rim of the canyon.” Though Adams’s large-format photographs of American landscapes made him an icon, for me, this portrait of O’Keeffe and Cox is unsurpassable. read more

The real Ansel Adams

Alan Ross, who knew the genius and wicked humor of the famed photographer and environmentalist, exhibits work at Laguna gallery.

Ansel Adams and Imogen Cunningham

Ansel Adams and Imogen Cunningham by Alan Ross

One of Ansel Adams‘ pet peeves was when Alan Ross would forget to turn off a battery-powered digital thermometer in the dark room.

He communicated his displeasure about the batteries wearing out by leaving notes that read, “You left the thermometer on all night (sniff!!)” and “Naughty boy!!!!!! You didn’t turn the [expletive] thermometer off!!!!” Since Ross wasn’t accustomed to using a thermometer that needed turning off, he forgot — a lot.

When Ross followed through, though, Adams scribbled, “Dear Alan, I am peeved!! Disappointed, discouraged!!!! You did NOT forget to turn off the thermometer and I have nothing to gripe about! What is life without a gripe? Desolate, flat, etc. …”

These missives, exhibited at the Forest and Ocean Gallery along with candid shots of Adams dressed as Moses and another in which he is clowning around with a dark cloth, showcase the photographer and environmentalist’s gregarious nature. Titled “Alan Ross: The Ansel Adams Legacy,” the show features 11 black-and-white landscape images from the 26-piece collection “Yosemite Special Edition.” The pieces cost $300 when unframed and $395 with frames. read more

Adams’ ‘Masterworks’ as much history as art

There’s going to be a point when Ansel Adams’ photographs are more valuable as historical artifacts than they are as works of art, and that point might be now.

The photographs included in “Ansel Adams: Masterworks,” an exhibition currently up at the South Bend Museum of Art, are beautiful, but the collection speaks as much to Adams’ stature in America’s artistic and cultural history as it does to the aesthetic quality of the images in the show. They are wonderful photographs, to be sure, but they are also national treasures, and the exhibit is about their preservation.

The “Masterworks” collection is drawn from a set of images known as “The Museum Set,” a group of images that Adams himself gathered together before his death in 1984. Adams built the collection at the suggestion of Maggi Weston, owner of the Weston Gallery in Carmel, Calif., who in 1978 proposed that Adams choose a set that represented the best of his body of work and then make prints of the set that would be made available to museums around the country. read more

Black, white photos come to life in Ansel Adams exhibition

His photos are only two colors – black and white. They seem simple in this age of digitized photography. The truth, however, is the work of Ansel Adams revolutionized the craft of photography by delivering more than images but a message for a better world.

Today that message will arrive at Baylor. The Martin Museum of Art inside the Hooper-Schaefer Fine Arts Center will open its doors at 10 a.m. to showcase the traveling exhibition “Ansel Adams: Distance and Detail,” displaying the famous black and white photos of the late photographer…read more

Island imagery: Ansel Adams and Georgia O’Keeffe in Hawaii

AnselAdams_Buddhist Grave Marketings and Rainbow, Paia, Maui, HawaiiIs a rainbow still a rainbow if it’s in black and white? Or put another way, can photographs of people, manmade structures and urban settings really be by Ansel Adams?

The answer is clearly yes, judging by the photographer’s work in “Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams: The Hawaii Pictures,” on view July 18 through Jan. 12, 2014, at the Honolulu Museum of Art, and afterwards at the O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe. But this first paired exhibition of island imagery by the iconic artists of the West also raises interesting questions about their artistic responses to commercial assignments, as well as to the lush scenery and diverse humanity.

“They’re kind of linked in the popular imagination — they were friends and they both spent time in the Southwest, and the O’Keeffe Museum has done a show on the both of them, but never on the two in dialogue,” curator Theresa Papanikolas explains. “What differentiates this show is that it deals very much with the sense of place. We associate O’Keeffe with New Mexico, Adams with the High Sierra and Yosemite Valley, but what happens when they go to a place that they’re not associated with, that they haven’t been to. How do they get up to speed, and does the work have the same resonance with their audiences?” … read more


Ansel Adams: The drama and beauty of the American West


London (CNN) — Famed for his rugged, immense portraits of the American West, Ansel Adams regularly tops lists of the 20th century’s greatest nature photographers.

Adams has won countless awards, including the highest U.S. civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In his home country, he is one of the few photographers to have become a household name, following a 50-year career in which he captured some of the most iconic images of American National Parks and the country’s immense mountain ranges.

Today, he is rarely the subject of the intense, approving attention he once was during his lifetime — his endlessly reproduced photographs appearing to have lost the ability to enrapture and surprise viewers.

An exhibition at the UK’s National Maritime Museum in London plans to wash away viewer’s apathy. read more

Ansel Adams’ son on why the British landscape wasn’t ‘dramatic enough’ for his father

Michael Adams discusses why his father would have embraced digital photography but snubbed the aggressive stunts of environmental activists

How glorious would the British countryside have looked through the lens of Ansel Adams? The Glenfinnan viaduct swooping through the Highlands, the ancient crags of Dorset’s Jurassic coast, the rocky valleys of Snowdonia, the volcanic patchwork of the Giant’s Causeway – oh for exposures of them to have passed through the darkroom of the world’s greatest landscape photographer.

Click here to view a slideshow of Ansel Adams’ dramatic photographs

As it is, Ansel Adams remains famed for a single-minded devotion to capture the American wilderness on film right until his death in 1984. He visited the UK just once, in 1976, and never made it beyond the capital. Of his British holiday snaps, the most interesting images are of coats of armour in a museum somewhere.

His son, Michael Adams, suspects the British outdoors was not dramatic enough to lure his father away from the Yosemite waterfalls in California and the Grand Teton mountains in Wyoming. “I think he would have liked the British landscape,” says the 79-year-old diplomatically, but what really excited his father was “high mountains with glaciers and very rugged areas of the world”. read more

Dave Brubeck Receives Posthumous Grammy Nomination For ‘Ansel Adams: America’

Jazz great Dave Brubeck, who passed away yesterday, died hours before before receiving what a Grammy nomination, in the best instrumental category, for Ansel Adams: America, a symphonic piece inspired by Adams’ photogoraphs that he co-wrote with his son, Chris see the full story

Ansel Adams, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich/ Cartier-Bresson: A Question of Colour, Somerset House, review

Alastair Sooke reviews Ansel Adams at the National Maritime Museum and Cartier Bresson at Somerset House: photographs of the wilderness and city life

In the world of photography, Ansel Adams (1902-84) is practically a god. On the other side of the Atlantic, his famous black-and-white photographs of national parks in the American West are revered. During a career lasting almost seven decades, he secured a reputation as a visual poet of the wilderness as well as a tutelary spirit of American national identity. Some of his pictures, such as The Tetons and the Snake River (1942), seem precision-made for the overused adjective “iconic”.

Why, then, did I find myself resisting the allure of his photography as I wandered through a new exhibition of his work at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich? Let me try to explain.

The exhibition, which originated in Massachusetts, contains more than 100 original photographs demonstrating Adams’s lifelong obsession with water. The pictures are arranged thematically, so that images of, say, rivers, waterfalls, or the Californian coastline are grouped together. We see fierce rapids, streams stippled with sunlight, twisting columns of water in cascading freefall, and great salty spumes as waves explode against rocks.

read more at The Telegraph

The girls of Manzanar

One was photographed by Ansel Adams. The other wrote a best-selling memoir. Their stories still resonate.



The girls were 7 when Executive Order 9066 uprooted their lives in Los Angeles.

That April, in 1942, both ended up more than 200 miles away from their homes at the same desolate area in the arid Owens Valley, ordered by the U.S. government to live behind barbed wire fences and under the watchful eyes of armed guards in gun towers.

Joyce Okazaki of Seal Beach holds the book “Born Free and Equal,” which shows photographs of her, left, and her sister, Louise Nakamura, right, taken by Ansel Adams in 1943 at Manzanar War Relocation Center in the eastern Sierra. She now gives talks about that time in her life.

They were two children among 10,000 people, all of Japanese descent and two-thirds of them, like the girls, American citizens by birth.

They never crossed paths – at least not that they know of – at Manzanar War Relocation Center, where families lived in rows of Army barracks divided into blocks and “apartments” measuring 20-by-25 feet.

But, in different ways, each girl came to represent the place where their families were confined for more than two years.

The girl from Block 12, Joyce Nakamura Okazaki, became the face of Manzanar in 1944.

She’s the schoolgirl with the near-perfect curls in the book “Born Free and Equal: The Story of Loyal Japanese Americans” by famed photographer Ansel Adams, who hoped to suggest, as he says in the introduction, that “the broad concepts of American citizenship, and of liberal, democratic life the world over, must be protected in the prosecution of the war, and sustained in the building of the peace to come.”

The girl from Block 16, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, gave a voice to Manzanar with the 1973 publication of one of the most widely read memoirs written by an American author, “Farewell to Manzanar.”

Her story has sold more than 1 million copies, and has landed on banned book lists, too.

Both Okazaki and Houston now spend much of their time educating young and old alike about Manzanar.

Their Manzanar discussions are part of a series of OC Public Library programs centering on the theme “Searching for Democracy” that start this weekend and continue into October.


“Farewell to Manzanar” was not intended for any particular age group, but in 2001, Publishers Weekly listed the collaboration between Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and her belated novelist husband, James D. Houston, as one of the bestselling children’s books of all time.

It became part of school curriculum around the country and standard reading in grade schools to universities all over the world. A TV movie aired in 1976.

“Farewell to Manzanar” broke decades of national silence on what happened to some 120,000 Japanese Americans – men, women and children – detained under presidential order between 1942 and 1945 at 10 camps around the country.

“I was writing it for my family, for myself,” Wakatsuki Houston says of her memoir. “We never imagined it would be a book that would live on this long.”

She believes the power of “Farewell to Manzanar” lies in the story it tells about a family, and what relocation did to them. Rather than bring the Wakatsukis closer together, life at Manzanar broke the family’s bonds.

“It’s an honest story,” says Wakatsuki Houston, who has traveled the world from her home in Santa Cruz to speak about Manzanar. Her stop in Orange County includes scheduled visits with youth at Orangewood Children’s Home and teens from the Brea and La Habra Branch libraries.

She never tires of the subject. She sees the opportunity to engage in discussions with young people about issues such as Manzanar as the true meaning of democracy.

“I hope it enlarges (students’) view of community, of California, of country, of ethnic and racial diversity – and see it as a plus.

“It’s why America is the great country it is,” she adds. “Of course we have failings. But we can still revert to our ideals.”


In the photo that Ansel Adems took on a sunny fall day in 1943, Joyce Okazaki is smiling.

Back then, she was Joyce Yuki Nakamura. She looks sweet and innocent, with her head and her smile tilted just so.

She does not look like an enemy.

But she admits to being a cranky 8-year-old with one of the world’s greatest photographers.

They were outside and she asked if he could shoot the photo in the shade. No. Could she at least face a different way? No.

She didn’t like the blue-and-white striped dress she wore either. Her sister, Louise, 4, got the dress with ruffles and flowers. It was a mismatch for both.

“She was the tomboy type,” Okazaki says. “I was the girly-girl.”

Her father, who graduated from Berkeley with a degree in architecture, had been allowed to travel to Idaho where he picked potatoes to earn extra money. He had bought and mailed the dresses to his girls.

Her mother, Yaeko Nakamura, is included in the book. A USC grad, Yaeko Nakamura’s ethnicity prevented her from being hired as a teacher before the war, but she taught physical education to youth at Manzanar.

Okazaki’s image appears on the cover of the 2001 reprint of “Born Free and Equal” and has been seen in a number of exhibits, including at the Japanese American National Museum in downtown Los Angeles, not far from where her grandfather ran a successful dry goods store before relocation, and at the Eastern California Museum in Independence, not far from Manzanar.

Okazaki, who lives in Seal Beach, retired in 2008 after working more than 20 years in libraries and media centers in the Los Alamitos School District.

She volunteers with the Manzanar Committee, the organization behind the successful effort to have Manzanar designated a national historic site. Okazaki answers often-asked questions about how to define the camps.

“My question is always, why was I, a child, put into a concentration camp?” Okazaki says. “I was a citizen. That’s against the Constitution.”

That’s not a discussion she could have had at 7, when relocation meant leaving behind her favorite doll, Buttercup.

But 70 years later, she can’t stop talking about what else was left behind.



The statewide California Reads program encourages youth and adults to read books and participate in discussions about the theme “Searching for Democracy.”

OC Public Libraries received a grant from Cal Humanities in partnership with California Center for the Book to help fund its presentations. Here are upcoming events at local libraries focusing on Japanese American relocation during World War II.

“Farewell to Manzanar” author Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston will speak Saturday at 2 p.m., Garden Grove Regional Library, 11200 Stanford Ave., Garden Grove, and on Sunday at 2 p.m., Laguna Niguel Library, 30341 Crown Valley Parkway, Laguna Niguel.

Joyce Okazaki, the schoolgirl photographed by Ansel Adams at Manzanar, will speak on Oct. 1, 7 p.m., at Los Alamitos Rossmoor Library, 12700 Montecito Road, Los Alamitos, and on Oct. 23, 3 p.m., at Cypress Library, 5331 Orange Ave., Cypress.

Artist Chizuko Judy Sugita de Queiroz will discuss her book “Camp Days 1942-1945” about childhood days at Poston, Ariz., and share movie clips on Oct. 26, 2 p.m., at El Toro Branch Library, 24672 Raymond Way, Lake Forest.

Through the month of October, the Fullerton Public Library is encouraging city residents to read “Farewell to Manzanar” as part of “Fullerton Reads, One City, One Book, One Adventure.” Activities will include an oral history project, speakers and community discussions.

Contact the writer: twalker@ocregister.com or 714-796-7793