Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Museum of the Albemarle to Host Groundbreaking Ansel Adams Exhibition

– Photographs to be displayed Sept. 15 - Dec. 2 in Elizabeth City, N.C. –

A groundbreaking photography exhibition documenting a boating cruise on the Intracoastal Waterway is the focus of Ansel Adams in the East: Cruising the Inland Waterway in 1940. The collection will be displayed Sept. 15 through Dec. 2 at the Museum of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City, N.C. As a featured event, Exhibit Curator Stephen B. Jareckie will present a gallery talk Oct. 11 at 7 p.m. at the museum.

Depicting nearly 50 square proofs, gelatin silver prints and enlargements from 2.25-inch negatives, the photographs document a Thanksgiving week vacation cruise that took Adams and the well-known philanthropist David Hunter McAlpin from Norfolk, Va. to Savannah, Ga., in 1940.

Featuring photographs taken by Adams and McAlpin, an amateur photographer, the exhibition provides an early photo-documentary view of the Intracoastal Waterway prior to World War II. “It captures the idyllic times experienced by Americans before the country’s involvement in a war that changed the world, as well as the direction of modern art,” said Don Pendergraft, exhibit design chief with the Museum of the Albemarle. “In essence, it is ‘the calm before the storm.’ ” Adams is well known for his majestic Western landscapes, while McAlpin was instrumental in establishing the Department of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.

In October 1940 at McAlpin’s invitation, Adams traveled to New York to advise his friend in setting up MoMA’s new photography department. McAlpin, who had persuaded MoMA trustees to recognize photography as a valid fine art form, chaired the trustee committee to oversee the photography department. In November, after completing the first phase in establishing the new department, McAlpin suggested to Adams they take a break. The next month they boarded the 42-foot schooner Billy Bones II at Norfolk, Va., for a 580-mile excursion on the Intracoastal Waterway.

The cruise provided the two photographers ample opportunity to test their skills in a new locale. Adams, known for his sweeping landscapes, tried his hand at social documentary work when he photographed dockworkers in Carolina fishing ports. At Deep Creek, Va., McAlpin photographed Adams at the schooner’s masthead. Taken from the high vantage point, Adams’ photograph in the exhibit shows a bird’s eye view of the lock and surrounding countryside. The photographs stand out as “excellent examples of intuitive, hand-held photography” according to Jareckie.

The Museum of the Albemarle exhibition is only the second time these photographs have been shown. Ansel Adams in the East: Cruising the Inland Waterway in 1940 appeared earlier this year at the Fitchburg Art Museum in Fitchburg, Mass. The collection is on loan from the Sarah Sage McAlpin Estate.

Museum of the Albemarle and Elizabeth City

The Museum of the Albemarle ( is located at 501 S. Water Street in Elizabeth City, N.C. The northeastern regional branch of the North Carolina Museum of History, the museum interprets the history of 13 counties in northeastern North Carolina – considered by many to be the birthplace of English America. Admission is free. Call (252) 335-1453.

Elizabeth City is located in northeastern North Carolina on the Pasquotank River, halfway between Norfolk, Va., and the Outer Banks. In addition to the Museum of the Albemarle, Elizabeth City has six National Register Historic Districts and is home to the Pasquotank Arts Council Gallery, Elizabeth City State University Planetarium and Port Discover Science Center. Nature-based travelers are drawn to the area’s proximity to the Great Dismal Swamp and the abundance of outdoor recreational offerings. For travel information, call the Elizabeth City Area Convention & Visitors Bureau ( at 1-866-324-8948 or (252) 335-5330.

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