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Trailer Camp Children, Richmond, California

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Ansel Adams, American, (1902–1982)
Trailer Camp Children, Richmond, California, 1944
Photographic materials on paper
13 5/8 x 9 5/8 in. (34.61 x 24.45 cm)


Object Type: Photography
Technique: Photography
Creation Place: North America, America, California
Credit Line: Gift of Virginia Adams
Accession Number: 2013.5.18


Commentary
The influence of documentary photographer Dorothea Lange on this photograph is obvious, and surprising given their contentious friendship. Adams described Lange as “an extraordinary phenomenon in photography,” and assisted her in her work. At the same time, Adams wrote to his friend Edward Weston, “I still believe there is a real social significance in a rock—a more important significance than in a line of unemployed,” a jab at Lange’s examinations of 1930s decay. By the 1940s, Adams turned from rocks and accepted Lange’s call for photography to engage with social issues. The eldest child’s look of worry, holding his younger sibling, along with the dark tones that Adams uses, imbue a haunting mood to poverty.

David Kuhio Ahia, PO ’18
Getty Multicultural Undergraduate Intern

***

Early in his career, Ansel Adams clung to an apolitical approach to his artwork—he believed that it was the artist’s job to abstain from social commentary and to produce “art for art’s sake.” This approach manifested itself in Adams’s preference for nature photography and a focus on evoking the forcefulness of his landscapes. However, the Depression and the Second World War had a lasting effect on Adams and his contemporaries. As the social and economic climate in the United States worsened, the “art for art’s sake” ideology came under fire for being too distant and insular. As a result, Adams reexamined his political abstinence, realizing the potential he had to spread awareness of the intense poverty that the working class suffered. This image—three children, destitute and transient—symbolizes a shift in Adams’s social education and the expansion of his artistic philosophy.

Laura Woods, SCR ’18



Between 1978 and his death in 1984, Ansel Adams created a special inventory of fine photographic prints of his most important and favorite images. Adams created these prints in order to make his work more available to a wide range of institutions for public display and educational purposes as part of their permanent collections. These prints were sold in sets to individuals, corporations, and institutions suject to the written agreement that each set would not be sold on the open market, bu rather would be donated to institutions for public display and educational purposes. These sets of fine prints became known as the Ansel Adams Museum Sets.

Some of the institutions that have received gifts of Museum Set prints include The National Gallery of Art, the Wilderness Society, the Stanford art Museum, the de Young Museum, the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, Cornell University, and Princeton University.

Scripps College is very pleased to be the recipient of an Ansel Adams Museum Set through the generosity of the Virginia Adams Charitable Trust, created by Adams's wife, Virginia Best Adams. This gift to the Scripps College collection was made directly by the Virginia Adams Charitable Trust.

The copyright to this work and all works in the Ansel Adams Museum Set is held by the Virginia Adams Charitable Trust.

Marks
This work bears the signature of the artist in pencil at the lower right, directly beneath the photo.

Medium
silver gelatin print

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