Ansel Adams, from the wilderness to the corridors of power

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Fans of Ansel Adams should visit the Interior Department in Washington to take in the newly installed photographs of the American West by Adams, which now line the walls of the building’s corridors.

Adams, the iconic photographer best known for his images of the vast wilderness of the West, shot the photos as part of a special project commissioned in 1941 by then-Interior Secretary Harold Ickes.

The images capture the stunning scenery of California’s Deadman Canyon and Kings River Canyon, as well as Glacier National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Yellowstone National Park and other locations throughout the West.

Adams and Ickes met in 1936 at a conference on the future of national parks. Ickes felt a common bond with the photographer, who seemed the perfect artist to capture the mission of the department. Adams was paid $22 per day to work on the project, and he only charged the government for the days when he actually shot. He took more than 200 photos over about a month, but with the onset of World War II, the project stalled.


Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has since revived the project and -- at a cost of $17,000 -- had 26 of the images permanently installed in the halls of the Interior building at 1849 C St., NW. The photos were unveiled at a reception Wednesday night honoring Rep. Norman Dicks (D-Wash.), the outgoing chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on the Interior.

The exhibit is the first time the photos from this project have been shown in public. All 200-plus images are stored at the National Archives.

To view a slide show of the photos, visit:

-- Kim Geiger

Top: Boulder Dam, Colorado River, Nevada / Arizona Border, 1942 Ansel Adams National Archives no. 79-AAB-4 Left: Navajo Girl, Canyon de Chelly, Arizona, circa 1942, Ansel Adams National Archives no. 79-AAK-02