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Vital Waters

White Gallery | June 4, 2021 - January 16, 2022

Vital Waters features three iconic photographers and environmentalists: Ansel Adams, Dorothy Kerper Monnelly, and Ernest H. Brooks II. The exhibition is curated by Jeanne Falk Adams, former CEO of the Ansel Adams Gallery.

All three photographers have had a life-long involvement with classic black-and-white photography as well as a strong commitment to supporting environmental issues. Fragile Waters 2 is a powerful aesthetic and environmental statement, blending inspiring black and white photographs by three renowned American artists who feel an obvious reverence for nature in general and the marine environment in particular, and know the integrity of place.

The traveling exhibition of 117 photographs, many not previously exhibited, takes viewers from the snow-melt of the High Sierras at 12,000 feet elevation to far below the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean.  All three artists have spent their lives near an ocean; all three have used their strong “integrity of place” to protect the sanctity of the environment through the universal language of black and white photography.  Included in this exhibit are four original Ansel Adams prints from 1918, 1920, and 1925. One print has never been shown and is in the original frame he gave to his father in 1925.

Designed to engage the viewer in a respectful and emotional connection to our most precious resource, Vital Waters suggests our ability to change the course of the future.

The exhibition blends the photographs of the three artists to create a more powerful collective statement than that of any one of them alone as they communicate the beauty and vitality of water. The photographers span a century of artistry and environmental history.

This exhibit is presented by Photokunst, and was curated by Jeanne Falk Adams.

About the Curator: 

Jeanne Falk Adams is former CEO of The Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite National Park, a family business of 104 years. Through her 25 years with the gallery, she designed and directed photography exhibitions, symposia, and workshops. Her expertise in the field has made her a much-sought-after reviewer, juror, lecturer, and advocate for creative photography. She is also one of the rare individuals to have viewed every reproduction print of Ansel Adams’ expansive collection.

She holds a Master of Arts in Education from Stanford University, and a BA in History from California State University, Fresno. Adams has served on the boards of art museums and higher education institutions and been actively involved in environmental activities. She has been a trustee with the University of California Press Foundation and the Central California Futures Institute. She also has been a board member of the University of California, Merced. She was a member and community liaison for the State of California Resources Agency’s Steering Committee of the Sierra Summit, serving as a key contact for scientists researching for the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project. She is a recipient of the Kappa Kappa Gamma National Alumni Award for her lifetime of dedication to the arts, humanities, environment, public housing and education.

Adams’s long involvement in environmental issues has convinced her that aesthetics, and black-and-white photography in particular, can alert, inspire, communicate, and motivate. Based on this premise, Jeanne took on the formidable task of curating Fragile Waters 2, a subject matter close to her heart and beliefs.

Curator’s Statement

As curator of Vital Waters I began with the concept of beauty engaging the viewer and selected images from my father-in-law Ansel Adams, from Ernest H. Brooks II, and from Dorothy Kerper Monnelly that told a story about water, unspoiled land and waterscapes.

My personal energy in Vital Waters is a deeply held belief that everyone is to be respected for his individual perspective, and that with urbanization worldwide we move away from natural beauty so important for our psychological and spiritual balance and harmony. Beauty is one of those links. Black-and-white photography is classic and allows connection in individual ways. When life gets out of balance, inspiration can come from sources that engage feelings and love. I believe that water is so crucial, in all its force, wonder, and necessity for life, that an exhibition in which sensitive artists interpret water in environments they love can begin to shift that zeitgeist. Honoring downstream users becomes real.

Ansel Adams, Ernest H. Brooks II, and Dorothy Kerper Monnelly have clear visions, intimately know the magic of mountain stream; the quiet, somber, lively coasts; the life of animals, plants, fishes under water – new to many, and now captured for eternity. Enjoy.

Special events:
Friday, June 4, 2021 | 6-9pm | 49th Anniversary Gala

NOTE: Details subject to change.