Martha Porter, Pioneer Woman

Description (Brief)
Silver gelatin, mounted. Woman with visible wrinkles, solemn expression, hair pulled back, standing to the right of a white column with chipped paint. Wearing a plaid shirt with large round button on right lapel. Signed, ink (recto: bottom right). Verso: Adams stamp, handwritten title, bottom center.
While visiting friends in southern Utah, Adams took this unusual portrait of an elderly woman sweeping her porch in the small town of Orderville. In his book “Examples,” Adams compares his subject, Martha Porter, to a “found object,” one that is captured exactly how it is found by the photographer (p.71). Porter remarked that she didn’t know why Adams would want to take her portrait. He wrote that he felt “a strong human and aesthetic motivation” for photographing the woman, part respect for her dignity and part delight in the variety of tones and textures the scene presented (p.72). This portrait, with its directly-lit highlights and shadowy background, is a statement of Adams’ preference for naturally-lit portraiture.
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 1958
print made
Adams, Ansel
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
overall: 45.6 cm x 35.5 cm; 17 15/16 in x 13 31/32 in
place made
United States: Utah
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

Visitor Comments

11/29/2015 12:39:48 AM
Dan Baird
My friend Arella Landman and Irecently bought Martha Portor's house in Orderville, Utah. We are restoring it to its original state. It is a beautiful old home. I understand that many newly weds pose for their wedding pictures on the porch. Also folks stop by and shoot a pic by the column Martha stood by for Ansel Adams.
4/12/2016 2:07:51 AM
John W.. Rockwell
Martha Heaton Porter was my grandmother. Th story of Ansel Adams taking her photo is well known in the family. Her last surviving child, Twila Porter Rockwell, is my mother. She is 94 and lives in Nephi, Utah. Martha's husband, Alvin, and Marth's father built the family home.
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