Fragile Waters at SJMA Explores Water Conservation through Photographs by Adams, Brooks, and Monnelly

Release date 
Friday, March 3, 2017

Fragile Waters: Photographs by Ansel Adams, Ernest H. Brooks II, and Dorothy Kerper Monnelly at San Jose Museum of Art March 17 – August 6, 2017

SAN JOSE, California (March 2, 2017) – With recent rains and flooding following years of drought, water is very much on the minds of Californians. From March 17 to August 6, 2017, San Jose Museum of Art will present an exhibition devoted to celebrating this precious, essential resource and encourage dialogue about water. Fragile Waters: Photographs by Ansel Adams, Ernest Brooks II, and Dorothy Kerper Monnelly features 120 black-and-white photographs by three artists who have expressed their lifelong commitment to protecting the sanctity of the environment through the universal language of photography. Fragile Waters is one of three exhibitions at SJMA this spring to examine the environmental, humanitarian, and social aspects of water. 

Fragile Waters features 40 works by Ansel Adams and includes rarely seen historic images from his family’s private collection. Adams’s early prints, made from 6 ½ x 8 ½-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. Among the works featured in Fragile Waters are Adams’s images Tetons and Snake River, the Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, 1942Point Sur, Storm, Big Sur, California, 1946; and Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, 1942.  

Highlights include Adams’s first successful actual print, which he described to his father in a lengthy letter in 1920. Also on view will be one of his original cameras, an 8 x 10 Deardorrf.

Ernest Brooks II is a renowned underwater photographer and climate-change activist whose work has been exhibited at museums such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC. A leading figure in the development of underwater photographic equipment and technique, Brooks has dived beneath the polar icecaps and to the depths of every ocean in pursuit of his dramatic underwater images.

Dorothy Kerper Monnelly has devoted her long career to landscape photography and conservation advocacy. She lives at a pond near the great marsh by Crane Beach in Ipswich, Massachusetts, and has received particular acclaim for her projects on threatened coastal marshes and ecosystems in New England. Her work is in the collections of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC; The Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts; and other museums and private collections.

This exhibition is traveled 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.



Fragile Waters is one of a trio of exhibitions about water at SJMA this spring. The Darkened Mirror: Global Perspectives on Water (April 7 – August 27, 2017) features five international artists who address humanity’s conflicted relationship with water: Vibha Galhotra, Gerco de Ruijter, Khvay Samnang, Jesper Just, and Amy Balkin.  In their videos and installation work, these artists address such themes as water access and ownership in Cambodia; agricultural irrigation in the American Southwest; the ethical implications of desert settlements; river pollution in India; and the physical and political impact of climate change locally and globally. Also on view through September 24, 2017, is Diana Al-Hadid: Liquid City, in which Diana Al-Hadid’s monumental sculpture Nolli’s Orders anchors SJMA’s Central Skylight Gallery like a fountain in a Roman piazza. 



The exhibition will open with a members’ preview at 6 PM on Thursday, March 16. A public opening reception for Fragile Waters and the accompanying exhibition The Darkened Mirror will be held on Friday, April 7, 8 – 10 PM. Other related public programs include:

Thursday, March 23, 2017, 12:30 PM
Gallery Talk: Fragile Waters
S. Sayre Batton, interim director. Free with Museum admission.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017, 12 PM
Water: Essential to Silicon Valley’s Past and Future
Lunchtime Lecture by Marty Grimes, supervising program administrator at the Santa Clara Valley Water District. Free with Museum admission.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017, 12 PM
Lunchtime Lecture by Jeanne Falk Adams, guest curator. 
Free with Museum admission.



The San Jose Museum of Art celebrates new ideas, stimulates creativity, and inspires connection with every visit. Welcoming and thought-provoking, the Museum rejects stuffiness and delights visitors with its surprising and playful perspective on the art and artists of our time.

The San Jose Museum of Art is located at 110 South Market Street in downtown San Jose, California. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 PM to 5 PM and until 8 PM or later on the third Thursday of each month. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, $6 for students, and $5 for youth ages 7 -18. Members and children ages 6 and under are admission free. For more information, call 408-271-6840 or visit

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Programs at the San Jose Museum of Art are made possible by generous operating support from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, Yvonne and Mike Nevens, a Cultural Affairs grant from the City of San Jose, and the Richard A. Karp Charitable Foundation.