There’s something extraordinary about the way Ansel Adams was able to compose landscapes that continue to surprise and intrigue us after all this time. Here at 20x200 HQ, we’ve been studying and staring at his 1942 image, Canyon de Chelly, for months, discovering new things in each observation.
Adams captures the gorgeous grandeur of the vista, as well as its timelessness. These structures have been around for eons—to look upon them is to time travel, to glimpse the dawn of their creation, cross thousands of years, and ultimately bear witness to that moment, that day, in 1942. This carefully crafted image seems appropriately dramatic for the subject, for whom the present is but a speck in the vast span of time.
Perhaps it is this intimation of immortality that draws so many to this image and to the area. The canyon stands as one of the longest continually inhabited areas of North America—Ancient Pueblo people called this canyon home over a thousand years ago, building communities carved into these very rocks. In the years that followed, the Navajo people made their home here, and today, the Canyon de Chelly National Monument is one of the most visited National Parks in the United States.
Ansel Adams once wrote, "The Canyon de Chelly is geologically impressive... Some of my best photographs have been made in and on the rim of the canyon." He loved the warmth of the sandstone, the flowing patterns revealed on the eroding cliffs. In the canyon’s primordial intensity, Adams found profound beauty.
Pondering this image even now, we realize how very young we are—as individuals, as a generation, as a civilization. These curved sculptures of the earth predate us by an almost unfathomable amount of time, and will continue on long after we’re gone. When we look at Ansel Adams’ Canyon de Chelly, we celebrate a moment captured, and all the infinitesimal moments it conveys along with it: a dynamic, prehistoric past, a pivotal role in the lives of the people who lived there, and a monumental future.
With art for everyone,