OpenGrounds Photography Challenge and Forum Accompanies Ansel Adams and ‘New West’ Exhibits at The Fralin Museum of Art

Ansel Adams’s passion for the American West was the driving force behind his photography, as he applied his art to record the beauty of a threatened wilderness.

Beginning this week, U.Va.’s OpenGrounds is challenging U.Va. students, faculty, staff and alumni, as well as community members, to turn their lens on Charlottesville – just as Adams did with the American West – and seek to capture the experience of wilderness in their own daily lives.

The photography challenge is just one of the activities happening in conjunction with the Aug. 16 re-opening of “Ansel Adams: A Legacy” at The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia. This second rotation of Adam’s photographs, running through Oct. 13, also displays selections from across the span of his career.

The challenge asks participants to share experiences and perceptions that reveal an unknown quality of the world, inspire awe or call attention to the limits of human control over nature.

“By sharing our diverse perspectives on our surroundings, we can gain a deeper insight into choices that we make individually and collectively about our relationship to the environment,” said William Sherman, founding director of OpenGrounds and associate professor of architecture in the School of Architecture.  

“This challenge is intended to inspire us to look more closely at the inherited qualities of this place that provide meaning in our daily lives.”

Photographs can be submitted until Sept. 27. Selected images will appear in an online public exhibition on the OpenGrounds website. Judging for the Photography Challenge will be held in conjunction with the Sept. 27 OpenGrounds Forum, “Changing Views: Photography and Environmental Action.” First, second, and third place prizes will be awarded.

“Ansel Adams: A Legacy” tracks the career of one of the most recognized photographers of the 20th century over the course of a 60-year period, from the 1920s to the 1980s. It charts Adams’ development from his early works, conveying an artist first exploring his medium, to masterworks from his most productive period during the late 1930s through the 1950s.

Adams considered these photographs some of his most significant work. Originally selected by Adams and given to The Friends of Photography to represent his legacy, the collection is on loan from Lynn and Tom Meredith, trustees with the U.Va. College Foundation Board.

Sherman co-curated the exhibition with William Wylie, the museum’s adjunct curator of photography and associate chair for studio art in the McIntire Department of Art.

An accompanying exhibition, “Looking at the New West: Contemporary Landscape Photography,” on view until Dec. 15, vividly illustrates Adams’ lasting influence by focusing on six contemporary photographers’ explorations of the ever-changing scenery of the American West.

Curated by Wylie, the exhibit features artists – Robert Adams, Lois Conner, Michael Lundgren, Mike Osborne, Mark Ruwedel and Joni Sternbach – who share Adams’ devotion to landscape photography, but with ways of viewing that differed from Adams’ technically precise method of documentation.

To support multidisciplinary exchange and University-wide engagement with the Adams and contemporary photography exhibitions, OpenGrounds will sponsor a Sept. 27 forum, “Changing Views: Photography and Environmental Action” from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. in the Dome Room of the Rotunda.

Attendees are invited to a luncheon at the OpenGrounds Studio following the forum, which will include the judging and awarding of prizes for the photography challenge, as well as the launch of the Arts and Environmental Action Student Scholarships.

The forum will bring together scholars and practitioners from multiple disciplines to address how representations of the environment influence ideas and attitudes toward conservation. In examining the ways in which Adams’ work opened the door for successive generations of artists, environmental activists, designers and scientists, the forum hopes to explore and deepen understanding of the environment.

The forum’s scheduled participants include Finis Dunaway, a cultural philosopher and associate professor at Trent University in Peterborough, Ont.; artists Terri Weifenbach and Osborne, whose work is featured in the “New West” exhibit; Brian Richter, director of global freshwater strategies for The Nature Conservancy; and Julie Bargmann, an internationally recognized landscape architect, designer and associate professor in the U.Va. School of Architecture.

Their discussion will focus on the connections between perception and action and the complexity of multiple demands on the landscape.

A publication accompanying the forum and the exhibits will feature essays by Sherman, Dunaway, Richter and Bargmann. The publication is co-edited by Sherman, Wylie and Lindsey Hepler, program manager for OpenGrounds, and will be released during the Sept. 27 symposium. Pre-order information for this forum publication is available in the exhibition programs or by clicking here.

The publication explores the impact of representations of the landscape and the ways in which these images can open eyes to a new set of possibilities. Its essays and images address abstract themes, and unite them with concrete examples of the ways in which artists, scholars and practitioners apply new perceptions and public understandings of the landscape to their own work.

The OpenGrounds’ photography challenge, forum, publication, and Arts and Environmental Action Student Scholarships are all made possible by the support of The Jefferson Trust, an initiative of the U.Va. Alumni Association. Additional support has been provided by the Page-Barbour Lecture Series at U.Va., The Fralin Museum of Art, the Office of the Vice President for Research, and Lynn and Tom Meredith.

Media Contact

Robert Hull

Media Relations Associate Office of University Communications