Fragile Waters: Photographs by Ansel Adams, Ernest H. Brooks II, and Dorothy Kerper Monnelly

Ernest H. Brooks II
Winged Wall, Antarctica, 2010
Archival pigment print
16 × 20 inches
© Ernest H. Brooks II

Ansel Adams
Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, WY, 1942
Gelatin silver print
22 × 28 inches
Images printed courtesy of the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

Dorothy Kerper Monnelly
Salt Hay, First Light, Gloucester, MA, 1998
Gelatin silver print
28 × 22 inches
© Dorothy Kerper Monnelly

Ernest H. Brooks II
Pirouette, Santa Barbara Island, 1981
Gelatin silver print
Ed. 1 of 50
30 × 30 inches
© Ernest H. Brooks II

Ansel Adams
Point Sur, Storm, Big Sur, CA, 1946
Gelatin silver print
34 × 28 inches
Images printed courtesy of the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

Dorothy Kerper Monnelly
Salt Marsh Island, Clouds, Ipswich, MA, 2005
Gelatin silver print
14 × 18 inches
© Dorothy Kerper Monnelly

Ernest H. Brooks II
1996 Year of the Coral Reef, Sombrero Island, Philippines, 1996
Gelatin silver print
24 × 20 inches
© Ernest H. Brooks II

Thursday, March 16, 2017Sunday, August 6, 2017

To stand at the edge of the sea, to sense the ebb and flow
of the tides, to feel the breath of a mist moving over a great
salt marsh, to watch the flight of shore birds that have swept
up and down the surf lines of the continents for untold
thousands of years...is to have knowledge of things that
are as nearly eternal as any earthly life can be.

—Rachel Carson, writer and marine biologist


Water is very much on the minds of Californians after six years of drought. Fragile Waters celebrates this precious, essential resource and encourages dialogue about water conservation. One hundred and seventeen black-and-white photographs by three artists whose works span a century create a powerful collective statement. Ansel Adams’s early prints, made from 8-by-10-inch glass plate negatives, are some of the most iconic images in the history of photography. His reputation as an artist is matched by his role as a founder of the modern conservation movement. The exhibition will feature thirty-seven works by Adams— including rarely seen historic images from his family’s private collection—along with photographs by Ernest H. Brooks II and Dorothy Kerper Monnelly.

Brooks is a renowned underwater photographer and climate-change activist whose work has been exhibited at museums that include The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC. Monnelly has devoted her long career to landscape photography and conservation advocacy. She has received particular acclaim for her projects on marshes and ecosystems in Massachusetts.

Jeanne Falk Adams, former director of the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite National Park and Ansel Adams’s daughter-in-law, conceived the exhibition following the tragic explosion of the oil rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Fragile Waters unites three artists who have expressed their lifelong commitment to protecting the sanctity of the environment through the universal language of photography.

This exhibition was organized by photokunst and curated by Jeanne Falk Adams. Fragile Waters is organized at San Jose Museum of Art by Susan Sayre Batton, interim director, with Jessica Yee, curatorial assistant. Sponsored by the Myra Reinhard Family Foundation, McManis Faulkner, Melanie and Peter Cross, Carol and Gerhard Parker, and Dr. Jan Newstrom Thompson and Paul Goldstein. 

Additional support for education programs at SJMA has been provided by Avi Stachenfeld.