Ansel Adams at the Museum of Texas Tech University

The Museum of Texas Tech hosts a compelling new exhibition on the photographer Ansel Adams. The significance in Adams’ photography is the realization that what was ordinary is in fact extraordinary, grand and essential. This particular exhibition features his perspective on undisturbed, semi-undisturbed, and completely man made environments. Adams’ straightforward imagery and impossible clarity make him a prolific artist.

Ansel Adams: The Tetons and the Snake River, Grad Teton National Park, Wyoming

Adams was able to bring attention to the need for conservation not only in natural landscapes, but rural culture. In the photograph, The Tetons and the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, Adams shoots the Tetons and Snake River in a straightforward manner. From this photograph, the viewer gets a sense of the undisturbed wilderness, reflecting what the world and its environments looked like prior to human interference and exploitation of its resources. By asking us to reconsider our views and perception of nature (or “wilderness”) Adams is able to point out the need for preserving the wild. There is a way for humans to be part of nature without destroying it.

Ansel Adams: Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico

One of Adams’ most famous photos is also on display, Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico. Though the photo shows a beautiful moonlit night, the houses in the foreground command attention, alone in a desolate landscape. The viewer is immediately called to consider the importance of the agriculturalists on the plains and how farmers at this time are conveniently overlooked or looked through. There is a wonderful sense of comfort in the quiet and isolation from an industrial world, as the people of West Texas and local ranchers well know. Their connection to the land, even when barren, brings these people as close to the original terrain as we can now achieve. Adams encourages the viewer to truly see them and consider their importance, and warns viewers of how bleak the future may be without nature.

Cemetery Statue & Oil Derricks, Long Beach California exemplifies the future people will have if they do not respect the environment around them. By using an angel of sorrow from a cemetery surrounded by oil derricks, a completely man-made environment, Adams effectively communicates the danger of draining the earth of its natural resources. Texans face this in their own environment with the ever-present oilrigs continually pumping away in the background. To exacerbate the problem, fracking has caused more long-term environmental questions and concerns.

Ansel Adams: Cemetery Statue & Oil Derricks, Long Beach California

These photographs show the viewer at the Museum of Texas Tech University there is more value in this world than what they typically notice and view as important. The subjects of the photographs are so commonly looked over or ignored, and we must strive to keep the environment at the forefront of our mind and conserve our national heritage. Like the Adams’ angel, people need to be aware and sorrowful of the turmoil the environment endures. Unless people curb their use of the earth’s resources at the current accelerated rate, the wilderness will eventually be gone, remaining only in images.

“It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.”

(Ansel Adams)

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