scouts-l Mail Archive for June of 2000: Re: Ansel Adams expert needed
Scott Begin (sbegin@MCS.NET
Wed Jun 21 2000 - 21:11:21 CDT
At 09:57 AM 6/21/00 -0700, Mike Montoya wrote:
>I once saw an Ansel Adams photograph of the Tooth of Time,done in his stark
>b/w style from a far distance off....really emphasizing the "tooth" aspect.
>i have been trying to locate a print of this for a while now and am having
>no luck.... i have left numerous emails at >many of the vendors i have
>found selling these type of items on the net and on eBay, to no avail....
>was i dreaming???? does this photo exist???? if so, does anyone know it's
>name, or how to get a print?
I'm not an Ansel Adams Expert, I don't play one on TV, I just love his
About a year ago, this question was posed on the philmont-staff discussion
list. I'm posting what was stated.
The short answer is that no, you weren't dreaming; yes, the Ansel Adams
photos of Philmont do exist; probably can't be done: no, you can't get a
print (meaning poster size suitable for framing/display on a wall).
The Philmont FieldGuide uses some of the Ansel Adams photos to separate
sections, but the only one showing the tooth of Time is taken from Base
Camp, not from the Stockade/Lovers area like you describe. You can order
a fieldguide from the Philmont Trading Post (505-376-2281, ask for the
trading post). You may want to check before ordering. I though I
remember this guide being reprinted in the past couple of years (I worked
there last in 1990 and visited last in 1994).
Now for longer answers, taken from the messages posted to the
Philmont-Staff List. The first message is from Warren Smith (President of
the Philmont Staff Association and worked there 1975-79, 84-85), who posted
this response to a query about the photos:
Date: Sun, 08 Aug 1999 22:20:53 -0400
Subject: Re: Ansel Adams
I will tell you my own experiences with the Ansel Adams photos, and invite
others to correct my errors and fill in the blanks.
In 1979, as I was preparing to spend the summer as camp director at Crater
Lake, I was digging through some old photos and files at the Philmont
Museum (then called the Seton Museum, as I recall) with Jeff Segler, who
was also preparing for his summer as CD at Clark's Fork. One of us came
across a box of about 25 black and white photos, and we were immediately
taken by how well-done they were both shot and printed. I think we
assumed that someone from Philmont's News and Information Service (as it
was then called) had taken the photos.
After looking at a few of them, Jeff said, "I don't know who took these
photos, but he has sure studied Ansel Adams." We looked at practically
the entire box full of photos before we thought to turn one of them over,
and -- sure enough -- they were all marked as coming from the studio of
Jeff and I -- for a few exciting moments -- thought we had made a
discovery. Could it be that some undiscovered Ansel Adams photos had been
long lost in the archives of the Philmont Museum, unknown to one and all?
As it turned out, the answer was no. The museum's curator, Ellie Pratt,
knew well that the photos existed. We asked Ellie about them, and she
said that in the late 1950s, Ansel Adams made several photographic
expeditions to northern New Mexico. On one of these trips he made the
famous "Moonrise over Hernandez" photo, as well as several other famous
The photos at the Museum were apparently "proof prints" from one of these
photo expeditions. Without boring you with technical details, apparently
the way Adams worked was that when he ended up with a plate or negative
that he thought was worth printing, he would make a series of prints from
the negative, "bracketing" the exposures until he got the effect he
wanted. (This is one of the techniques that caused many people to say
that a part of Adams' genius was not just his work in the field, but his
work in darkroom.) The net effect was that for every final, finished
"art" quality print, there would usually be two to five other prints that
were of outstanding quality, but for some reason not up to Adams' highest
standards. Some of these "proof prints" he destroyed, some he archived,
some he gave away.
Apparently, the 25 or so prints Jeff and I found at the Philmont Museum
were among those "proof prints" from a series of photos he took on or
around Philmont. He gave them to the museum on the condition that they
not be displayed (or so I recall Ellie saying), since they were not up to
his highest standards.
However, several years later, when Jeff Segler was leading the production
of the Philmont Fieldguide, he remembered the photos and thought that they
would make wonder additions to the book. Approvals were subsequently
obtained, and the photos were used.
One personal footnote: Jeff donated one of his paintings -- "I Wanna Go
Back To Philmont" -- to Philmont sometime around 1980. He also donated
the proceeds of a limited edition printing of that painting. In order to
show their appreciation, the Ranch gave Jeff several of the Ansel Adams
photos. Jeff subsequently gave one of the photos to my wife Missy (also a
former Philmont Ranger) and me as a wedding present in 1983. That photo
hangs in our home today.
As to your specific questions: I believe that because of the
circumstances I have outlined above that it is unlikely that they are in
any books or that they will ever be available in larger formats, but I
would love to some day be proven wrong about this....
[This next message was a personal message to Warren in response to the
above message and was sent by Scott Sperka, Staff member 1961-64]
Date: Sun, 08 Aug 1999 23:16:29 -0400
Subject: PSA-LIST: More On Ansel Adams Photos
My older brother Mike was in the Photo Lab (pre-News and Photo Svc.) from
1958-1961 under the direction of Dan Sheehan (the subject of a recent
exhibition in the Seton Museum as well as photographer of all the great
Philmont photos still on display in the assembly hall at the PTC) and his
wife Lorene. During his tenure there, '59 or '60, I believe, Ansel Adams
visited Mr. Sheehan (and Philmont, of course). Some of Adams' "The
Birches" shots, maybe his famous one, were taken near Beaubien. He spent
a day or two traveling around the ranch with the Sheehans. The photos in
question may have been proofs from this visit, perhaps done in the
Philmont Photo Lab during his stay. The Sheehans were also good friends
with, and occasionally visited, Georgia O'keeffe over at Abiquiu, whose
husband was, of course, Alfred Stieglitz, the famous photographer. I
remember Mrs. Sheehan getting all dressed up in her Western finery for one
of the visits (I was in the Photo Lab in '61 & '62).
I will inquire of him any information he can shed on this subject. He is
a PSA member and lives in Hawaii.
[Next message, from Andy Sisson, 1992-96, answers your last question with
the answer you didn't want to hear]
Date: Mon, 9 Aug 1999 18:50:39 -0400 (EDT)
From: Andy Sisson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: More On Ansel Adams Photos
Several summers ago I (unofficially) looked into the possibility of
getting some of those prints reproduced as posters for sale at the TP. I
figured an Adams print of Philmont would sell pretty well. (Basically this
was a roundabout way to get my own copy of some of those proof shots.) And
so I talked with some factotum at the Ansel Adams trust out in CA that
holds the rights to all his prints. Despite my explanations, he spoke only
in the language of 6-figure sums and enormous press runs.
Through the right channels & the right contacts, I am sure that more
amiable terms would be arraigned, though.
Boy's Life also ran a photo essay by Adams on Philmont in 1960(?). I don't
recall the specific subjects of most of the shots -- I do remember sitting
in the Seton, magazine in front of me, feeling a bit guilty at my
disappointment. Mostly they were fairly generic happy-hiker-at-Philmont
shots (different from those Segler used for P2 fieldguide) and not well
enough reproduced to see any of Adams' darkroom genius. Solid photography,
I have occasionally seen one Philmont-related print in Adams books. It's
called "NM Thunderstorm" (or something like that). Adams was standing at
some vantage point near the PTC, pointing his lens east at a dark
thunderhead roiling over a diminutive Coyote Mesa.
I WANT TO GO BACK TO PHILMONT!!!!!!
Scott A. Begin Philmont Ranger 1988-89, Logistics 1990
email@example.com Philmont Staff Association Member
Oak Forest, IL