New Ansel Adams exhibit at the Getty showcases rarely-seen work

Photographer Ansel Adams poses with his famous photograph, "Moonrise," in this undated photo. New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani shared gallery space for an online auction with the late photographer. Adams' photograph "Moonrise" went for $24,500 and Giuliani's photograph of a New York street construction scene sold for $1,020. (AP Photo) Photographer Ansel Adams poses with his famous photograph, “Moonrise,” in this undated photo. (AP Photo)

Photographer Ansel Adams wasn’t just the guy who took the picture you use for your Windows desktop background. He was an artist. A picky, particular, deliberate artist.

Okay, fine. He was a control freak.

In 1980, nearing the end of his life and possibly contemplating his legacy, Adams decided to curate a collection called the “Museum Set Edition of Fine Prints.”

He selected 70 of his finest photographs from his massive archive to be sold in sets of 25. He picked the first 10, and the buyer could select the last 15. The whole kit and caboodle cost $30,000 per set.

Adams was selective about his buyers, too. He didn’t want the sets to be broken up and re-sold, but rather kept together the way he intended.

He got his way. Now, those photographs are at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the first time Adams’ work has been displayed there. “In Focus: Ansel Adams” opened Tuesday and will run through July 20.

“More than anything I learned from Ansel was his ability to take pictures with his eyes and with his mind,” Kurt Molnar, a photography teacher, told the Associated Press. “Let’s say you’re standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon,” Molnar continued. “Most people are going to see the entire vista. He could envision, he could see in his mind, the finished product before he even took the picture.”

Soraya Nadia McDonald covers arts, entertainment and culture for the Washington Post with a focus on race and gender issues.
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