Lot 540: One-of-a-kind collection of correspondence between Ansel Adams and Victor Hasselblad, two of the most important figures in the creative and technical progress of photography in the mid-20th century, comprised of nearly forty letters dated from 1954 through 1982, including: thirteen TLSs from Adams to Hasselblad, all signed "Ansel Adams" or "Ansel"; twelve of Hasselblad's retained carbon copies of his letters to Adams, signed "VH"; eleven TLSs from Adams to Hasselblad executive Osten Wejerfelt; and an assortment of unsigned copies and carbon copies.
Adams's first letter to Hasselblad is dated December 29, 1954, and references the publication of his 1954 book The Pageant of History in Northern California produced in collaboration with photography critic Nancy Newhall. In part: "I know you will be interested in the contents of this book. Especially so because 8 were made with the Hasselblad camera. The photo-data will describe which ones were made with the Hasselblad." Hasselblad's response, dated about a month later, thanks Adams for the book and informs him about their "new Wide Angle Camera." This initiates a years-long conversation about photographic equipment and technical topics, with Adams offering many insightful suggestions to the camera manufacturer.
A week later, Adams writes again in response to having tried the camera Hasselblad suggested: "The Superwide Hasselblad is indeed a masterpiece! I hope to put it to some creative use very soon; I got an interesting picture for LIFE magazine with an author sitting at the end of a table with many of his books spread out before him—the nearest book was about two feet from the lens, and the effect is remarkable!" In the fall, Adams sends Hasselblad a "rush note from Yosemite" to say that he will soon be in Massachusetts for a lecture and hopes to meet Hasselblad during his scheduled trip from Sweden to America.
In 1956, Adams sends a detailed letter exclaiming his satisfaction with the quality of Hasselblad's products and offers suggestions for "very important elements" he recognizes as lacking—a "tilt-front assembly…to: A. achieve depth of field…B. permit some 'correction' in architectural photography…C. 'manage' some problems in portraiture," a "mirror or prism to permit full-field focusing and viewing at eye-level," and "an efficient SQUARE lens hood."
In one of the more interesting letters from Hasselblad to Adams, dated December 20, 1968, in part: "I am crossing my fingers for the astronauts and their flight tomorrow the 21st where we have two Hasselblad electrical cameras on board and I hope that everything will work just fine."
Four of Adams's TLSs to Osten Wejerfelt are on cards or postcards featuring images of his work, including one from June 27, 1979, in part: "I returned day before yesterday from Yosemite where I conducted my annual Workshops…I am pleased to report a considerable number of Hasselblads were in use!…The new book, Yosemite and the Range of Light is finished and is being bound for release in September. My exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, will open during the first week of September." These letters date to the late 1970s and have general photographic content, including discussions of Hasselblad equipment, his own work, and publications in books and magazines. Four of Wejerfelt's unsigned retained carbon copies are included, as are a few photocopies of other letters by Adams. In overall fine condition.
While Adams primarily used large-format view cameras during the early part of his photographic career, he favored the medium format Hasselblad for his later work. His favorite image produced with the camera was 'Moon and Half Dome,' which he took at Yosemite in 1960 and is featured on two of the cards he sent to Wejerfelt. Both Adams and Hasselblad were premiere innovators in the realm of photography—it was Adams that elevated the craft to the level of fine art, and it was Hasselblad that developed a camera presenting an ideal compromise between portability and quality. They are easily two of the most recognizable names in the history of photography, and this comprehensive archive of their correspondence is of the utmost artistic and historical interest.
RR Auction's Fine Autographs and Artifacts Auction 453
Sunday, 17th May 2015
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