Chinese Baptist Kindergarten
Ansel Adams Original Photograph
Negative: ca. 1923
Signed "A. Adams"
Image Size 5 x 8”
Condition: Very Good
Only a finite number of Ansel Adams Originals exist in the world. Each masterpiece combines the patience the artist used to capture perfect light and shadow, with the emotion he felt when confronted by the grandeur of the American landscape. Ansel’s rare ability to transform geographic reality into a transcendent emotional experience for the viewer established him as one of the foremost American photographers—and conservationists—of his time. Ansel Adams photographs served witness to the powerful beauty of America’s wilderness, influencing the protection of vast swaths of land in the West. Honoring Ansel with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980, President Jimmy Carter stated: “At one with the power of the American landscape, and renowned for the patient skill and timeless beauty of his work, photographer Ansel Adams has been a visionary in his efforts to preserve this country’s wild and scenic areas, both on film and on Earth. Drawn to the beauty of nature’s monuments, he is regarded by environmentalists as a monument himself, and by photographers as a national institution. It is through his foresight and fortitude that so much of America has been saved for future Americans.”
Our 117-year-old business is still run by members of Ansel Adams' family, and commits to upholding the integrity and legacy of our gallery’s namesake. The Ansel Adams Gallery proudly houses the most extensive collection of Ansel Adams original photographs for sale in the world. Each original photograph we sell has a Certificate of Authenticity that states it has been authenticated by the Adams family as composed, exposed and printed by the artist himself.
We are extremely selective about the origin and condition of each work of art we represent. If, for any reason, your photograph does not meet your expectations, we offer a full 30-day refund less the cost of shipping. Original photographs typically range from $4,000 to $70,000
We welcome you to join us in our shared sense of pride, commitment, and responsibility—to both Ansel's artwork, and the story from which it was born. As an owner of an original Ansel Adams photograph, you become part of Ansel's legacy, honoring the exceptional beauty of America's landscapes and the call to protect them for generations to come.
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About This Image
Today, it’s hard to imagine that one of America’s most celebrated photographers ever struggled to find work shooting photographs. But in the beginning, Ansel Adams was, like most young photographers, unknown, and in order to support himself as a photographer, he took on work as a commercial photographer.
Of course, commercial photography was hardly Ansel’s passion. As Michael Adams, Ansel’s son puts it, “Ansel didn’t want to be known as a commercial photographer. He wanted to be known for his classical work.”
But, bills (as Ansel described as “the wolf at the door”) needed paying, and his more artistic work would, at least in the early days, need to be supported by commercial endeavors. As Ansel writes in his autobiography, “Our bank account would dwindle to a distressing level and I would grow deeply concerned, then, usually at the financial brink, with creditors gathering, the phone would ring and an assignment would present itself. This would carry us for another month or so.”
One of his first paying clients was his next-door neighbor, Miss Lavolier, who taught at the Baptist Chinese Grammar School in downtown San Francisco. It was in 1920 that she asked Ansel if he could photograph her kindergarten class. It was his first professional assignment.
Ansel prepared meticulously. He arrived early, set up his camera, composed the picture, and—importantly—organized his flash equipment. This was, of course, well before the invention of the flashbulb, so Ansel had to use an array of significantly more dangerous equipment: a flash gun, black powder cap detonators, and a supply of magnesium flash powder. The powder came in three different capsules, small, medium and large.
Though Ansel had learned how to use the technology of artificial lighting, he was not particularly experienced, as he greatly preferred using natural light. So when the instructions indicated that one medium and one small capsule of flash powder were to be used, he mistakenly used four large capsules—the equivalent of sixteen small ones.
He gathered the children together, got their attention and fired the charge and the shutter simultaneously. He writes “The light was apocalyptic. There was a thunderous PPFFFUFFF!! and my arm was firmly knocked down.”
MIss L. threw open the window to clear the smoke, and soon attracted the blaring sirens of San Francisco’s finest. The children had vanished, hiding beneath their desks covered in a dusting of powder. Fortunately none were hurt, but after the initial shock wore off, the crying began.
Michael Adams recalls that his father told the story many times. “He was always embarrassed that he’d allowed it to happen, and, of course, thankful no one was hurt.”
In the end, Adams led the class outside, photographing them—like so much of his later work—in natural light.
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