On Saturday evening I took in the new exhibit of local Ansel Adams photographs from his assignment for Fortune magazine in 1940. It was nice to see a selection on the wall after admiring them online (and writing about them) for several years. His faded letter offering the images to the Los Angeles Public Library is another reason to drop in at the drkrm gallery on Spring Street. Adams didn't think very highly of the photos, and let's be frank here, they are not up there with his wilderness and New Mexico images. But they do capture some moments in LA time that are pretty cool.
For Adams photographs of Angelenos that make a more emotional connection with the viewer, I nominate his spare 1943 images of life for internees at the Manzanar War Relocation Center near Independence, in the Owens Valley about 250 miles north of Los Angeles. More than 200 images are gathered online by the Library of Congress.
Adams's Manzanar work is a departure from his signature style landscape photography. Although a majority of the more than 200 photographs are portraits, the images also include views of daily life, agricultural scenes, and sports and leisure activities.
When offering the collection to the Library in 1965, Adams said in a letter, "The purpose of my work was to show how these people, suffering under a great injustice, and loss of property, businesses and professions, had overcome the sense of defeat and dispair [sic] by building for themselves a vital community in an arid (but magnificent) environment....All in all, I think this Manzanar Collection is an important historical document, and I trust it can be put to good use."
Manzanar was built, by the way, on land leased from the city of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
Adams was born in San Francisco on Feb. 20, 1902. He made his first trip to Yosemite in 1916. Adams died in Carmel on April 22, 1984.