Ansel Adams’ Photographs Feel Especially Urgent as the Climate Crisis Worsens

Ansel Adams, Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park, CA. Sotheby's New York

In a world where the president of the United States has been actively working to undermine established environmental regulations, and in a world where each passing year can be marked with ice caps gushing more water into the oceans as they slowly melt, the Earth’s natural resources have never felt more precious or more vulnerable. It’s hard not to hold this in mind when reviewing the roster of stunning Ansel Adams photographs Sotheby’s is offering on December 14: Adams spent his career meticulously documenting American landscapes and passionately advocating for environmental conservation.

Ansel Adams, Winter Sunrise, Sierra Nevada, from Lone Pine, California. Sotheby's

Ansel Adams, Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico. Sotheby's New York

Sotheby’s will be highlighting a curated collection, assembled by David H. Arrington, the President of Arrington Oil & Gas Operating LLC, of more than 100 of Adams’s most well-known works that includes the earliest print of his most famous photo: Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico. That photo in particular is so well known because of the stunning lunar presence hovering in the sky, as though keeping watch over its inhabitants. Additionally, at the base of the frame of Moonrise, stark white graveyard crosses leap out from the desert as though they’ve been spotlit. Ansel Adams took photographs of nature that were often stark, but never devoid of heart or passion, and his lens also managed to imbue the Earth’s landscape with a mythic and otherworldly quality.

Ansel Adams, Grand Tetons and the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, WY. Sotheby's

Ansel Adams, Aspens, New Mexico. Sotheby's New York

In other photos, Adams manages to imbue images of trees and rivers with a deep, almost uncanny sensuality. For example, the slim trunks in Aspens, New Mexico almost look sculptural, and their curves have a humanistic quality. “It is our immense privilege to bring David H. Arrington’s important collection of Ansel Adams photographs to the global collecting community,” Emily Bierman, the Head of Sotheby’s Photographs Department in New York, said in a statement. “His focus on collecting only the most superb prints is apparent when viewing the sumptuous early print of Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, an unequivocal masterpiece in the history of art that rivals any blue chip painting.”

Ansel Adams’ Photographs Feel Especially Urgent as the Climate Crisis Worsens