Skip to Content ☰ Open Filter >>


Showing 19 of 21

Ansel Adams, American, (1902–1982)
Winnowing Grain, Taos Pueblo, New Mexico, c. 1929
Photographic materials on paper
20 x 16 in. (50.8 x 40.64 cm)

Object Type: Photography
Technique: Photography
Credit Line: Gift of Virginia Adams
Accession Number: 2013.5.19

Much like Adams’s photograph of the San Francisco de Asis Mission Church, Winnowing Grain, Taos Pueblo, New Mexico accentuates the sculptural qualities of adobe building: the pueblo’s layered cubic forms, and its deeply shadowed doors and windows. The photograph encourages the viewer’s eye to trace the network of ladders running up through the pueblo’s stories. The brightest point of the photograph, however, is the stream of sunlit chaff spilling from the woman’s basket. She is winnowing grain, that is, separating chaff from threshed grain by tilting and shaking her grain-filled basket and allowing the wind to blow the chaff away. As cultures worldwide have winnowed grain since the beginning of agriculture, Adams’s photograph documents something ancient and eternal in the heritage of the American West. At the same time, by including domestic details such as a child’s shirt drying on a line, Adams also archives a moment of this woman’s everyday life. Indeed, this photograph seems to show the ordinary world overlapping with something eternal. Adams’s interest in Taos Pueblo is part of a larger modernist interest in ancient cultures. Carl Jung came to Taos in 1925 on a quest to uncover authentic early cultures surviving into the Modern period. There, he talked with the chief of the pueblo and “learned how all life flowed from the mountain by way of the river, and how God, the sun, needed the assistance of his people in order for the stability of the cosmos to be maintained.1 Indeed, pueblo chief Antonio Mirabal told Jung: ”We are a people who live on the roof of the world; we are the sons of the Father Sun, and with our religion we daily help our father to go across the sky. We do this not only for ourselves but for the whole world.”2 Documenting the ancient practices of Taos Pueblo, Adams seems to be following in Jung’s footsteps and participating in the intellectual discussions of his period.

1Hammond, Anne. Ansel Adams: Divine Performance. New Haven: Yale UP, 2002. 2Ibid.

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.

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

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.

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

gelatin silver print

Keywords Click a term to view the records with the same keyword
This object has the following keywords:

Portfolio List Click a portfolio name to view all the objects in that portfolio
This object is a member of the following portfolios:

Your current search criteria is: Portfolio is "Photography" and [Objects]Display Artist is "Ansel Adams".