Art Review: Ansel Adams @ National Maritime Museum

Ansel Adams is one of America’s most famous photographers, renowned for his evocative black and white landscape photos primarily of his home state of California and specifically those of Yosemite National Park.

This exhibition brings together over 100 of his original prints, and charts the development of his career as a photographer from 1915 through to 1968. It explores his continuous search for the perfect photograph — he could spend up to a day in the darkroom just to ensure one picture came out right.

Adams was clearly the inspiration for many of the modern photographs that adorn screensavers worldwide, and his shot of Mirror Lake where the reflection of the tree line is crystal clear in the lake below it, is a technique that is still emulated by many contemporary photographers.

He was a master of composition and of using long exposures, as highlighted in Fern Spring at Dusk where flowing water is made to look like it belongs in a primordial world. Further demonstration of his ability to evoke emotion from nature is seen in a picture of sundown over the Pacific that wouldn’t look out of place in a Renaissance painting.

The centre of the exhibition is dominated by three oversize prints and these do a great job of capturing the expansive American wilderness.

The exhibition doesn’t always follow a coherent path and his experimentations with colour photography aren’t represented here, but this isn’t a big loss as Adams was never a fan and preferred black and white.

This is a chance to see the works of one of the founders of modern landscape photography and to gaze in wonder at evocative and beautiful landscapes of the American West, at a time when the human footprint on this region was minimal.

Ansel Adams: Photographs from the Mountains to the Sea is on at the National Maritime Museum until 28 April. Tickets are £7 for adults, concessions available.

For more excellent landscape photographs, be sure to check out Landscape Photographer of the Year opening on 12 November.

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