From "Surf Sequence" No. 5

Description (Brief)
Silver gelatin, mounted. Aerial view of rocky shoreline with waves washing up. Wave is on top part of the photograph. Signed, ink (recto: bottom right). Verso: Adams stamp, top center. Title with "wave" crosses out and "surf" inserted, handwritten, ink. "14x13" handwritten, pencil left side edge.
On a drive from his home in San Francisco to the town of Carmel in 1940, Adams made frequent stops to walk out and look at the surf hitting the coast of San Mateo County. He took note of this particular strip of beach because of the unique and changing textures presented by the surf, sand and rocks in combination. Adams realized that the scene might be best captured in a series of images, and later wrote in his book "Examples" (p.27) that he recalled the advice of photographer Minor White, “A sequence of several images can be thought of as a single statement.” Adams also wrote that the images capture a fleeting moment in the natural world, and, while parts of a set, should not necessarily be arranged chronologically (p.23). This, the fifth image in the Surf Series, therefore showcases Adams' photographic standards, and stands out on its own as an individual, and highly successful, photograph.
Ansel Adams (1902-1984) is one of the most well-known twentieth century photographers. His contributions to the field of photography include his innovation and teaching of the Zone System. The quality of his photographs set the standard by which many straight photographs are judged.
The collection in the Photographic History Collection consists of twenty-five photographs, all printed in or about 1968. All are gelatin silver, mounted, labeled and signed in ink by the photographer. The photographs include some of his most well-known images, but also portraits and objects. The selection of images was made in collaboration between the collecting curator and Adams.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Object Type
negative made
ca 1936
print made
Adams, Ansel
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
overall: 35.4 cm x 45.7 cm; 13 15/16 in x 18 in
place made
United States: California, San Francisco
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Photo History Collection
Ansel Adams Collection
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Photographic History
Photo History Collection
Ansel Adams Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Reproduction rights held by the Center for Creative Photography--ARIZONA

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