Moonrise Hernandez New Mexico
Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico (1941) is a famous photograph by the celebrated American photographer Ansel Adams.
About the photograph
It was in 1941 during a photography trip on behalf of the U. S. Department of the Interior and the U. S. Potash Company of New Mexico that Adams stopped at the side of the road on Highway 84 to take the photograph. Accompanied by his son Michael and fellow photographer Cedric Wright, he quickly set up his camera to capture the quality of light and was able to take a single image before the sun set and the light was lost.
It features the tiny village of Hernandez on the banks of the Rio Chama, with the snow-capped Truchas Mountains in the background.
The rushed negative meant Adams found it difficult to create prints of a high-enough quality, and the time consuming process led him to create very few early prints of the image. One such print was reproduced in Edward Steichen’s ‘1943 U. S. Camera Annual’, and its subsequent popularity meant Adams was forced to create a number of prints to fulfil orders.
He re-processed the image, making it far easier to re-print but also altering the image; the contrast is far stronger in subsequent prints, with the sky appearing as almost black and a large number of clouds no longer visible.
In October 2006 an early print from the second set, created using the re-processed image, was sold at a Sotheby’s auction in New York. It was signed and dated 1948, created by the photographer himself, and had been previously owned by his assistant and fellow photographer Pirkle Jones.
It was sold for $609,600, making it one of the most expensive photographs ever sold at auction.
In October 2008 an earlier signed print, believed to have been created in 1946, was sold at another Sotheby’s sale in New York. It is thought to be one of only five prints created before the image was re-processed in 1948, and is lighter in tone and contrast than later prints. It was sold for a price of $362,500.
In 2010 a later mural-sized print created in the 1950s or 60s was sold at a Sotheby’s auction for $518,500.
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