The Underground Ansel Adams – Famous Photographer's Cave Photos Now Available for Public Viewing

Ansel Adams photos of Carlsbad Caverns, photos courtesy of Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Ansel Adams photos of Carlsbad Caverns, courtesy of Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

The name Ansel Adams has become justifiably synonymous with photographic excellence, and his work is recognized and admired throughout the world. Most of us probably associate him most closely with Yosemite National Park, but he practiced his gift with lens and film in other areas as well.

A new exhibit opening this weekend at Carlsbad Caverns National Park will give the public its first look at a different part of the natural world through the eyes of Ansel Adams, along with work by other talented photographers and artists.

It's fitting that this exhibit will be located at Carlsbad, because the underground wonders of this park are to caves what the National Gallery is to art. The park celebrates its 85th anniversary on October 25, 2008, with a full day of special events. This is a birthday where the gifts will last long after the candles have been blown out—and the public is the recipient of these presents.

In addition to a dedication and ribbon-cutting for the park's newly upgraded visitor center, Carlsbad Caverns is celebrating its birthday with two unique opportunities for fans of Adams' photography.

The first is a one-time event on October 25th. Dr. Michael Adams, son of the world-renowned photographer, will present a talk at 2 p.m. about his father’s legacy of photography in America’s national parks and monuments.

Most of us won't be able to attend that event, but the visitor center will offer new long-term exhibits, including "Underground Visions: Carlsbad Caverns Through the Artist’s Eye.” This exhibit features over 40 pieces of original artwork, many from the Carlsbad Caverns National Park collection. In addition to works by Ansel Adams, it features prominent New Mexico painter Will Shuster and local and regional photographers, artists and sculptors.

Four original Ansel Adams prints of the cave have never before been placed on public exhibit anywhere. They are part of a group of images Adams shot in the 1930s, and Carlsbad Caverns owns 25 of the prints. In addition to the four which will be on display beginning this weekend, selections from the remaining 21 prints will be shown via high quality digital scans. Future plans include a rotating selection of the original prints every fall.

Lois Manno, Director of the non-profit Cavern Arts Project, has worked for over three years to make this exhibit a reality. She notes, “The public is invited to come find out why Ansel Adams was not very satisfied with the photographs he made at Carlsbad Caverns and why he destroyed many of the prints. Cave photography can be challenging and even Ansel Adams could not escape that fact.”

Those visiting the park on October 25, 2008, can enjoy other activities in addition to the talk by Dr. Michael Adams. After a 9 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony, there will be tours of the new visitor center, music, and of course, birthday cake. Keynote speaker for the event will be Ronal Kerbo, retired National Park Service Cave/Karst Program Coordinator, who will deliver a special talk at 1 p.m. about the Caverns.

All dedication programs are free and the usual fees to enter the cave will apply. Allow extra time for your travel to the park, as there can be delays on Hwy 62/180 because of road work.

The exhibits will certainly be worth a trip, but the main reasons to visit the park are outside—and beneath—the visitor center. Carlsbad Caverns National Park encompasses over 46,000 acres and more than 110 known caves, including Lechuguilla Cave, one of the longest caves in the world and one of the deepest in North America. In addition to its many caves, the park contains one of the few protected portions of the northern Chihuahuan Desert ecosystem.

The park website has complete information on tours and other activities. There are a variety of cave tours available—from the self-guided areas of the Big Room to crawling through narrow passageways on the Hall of the White Giant Tour.

Access to the Big Room is provided by elevators located in the visitor center. The relatively level and well-lit trails make this the ideal tour for visitors with limited time or walking difficulties. Approximately two-thirds of the Big Room is accessible to people using wheelchairs with assistance. Visitors who want a more challenging cave experience will also find plenty of opportunities at Carlsbad.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park is located in southeastern New Mexico, and the park website has directions, travel information and maps.