Google Search

Ansel Adams: Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico

Photo Courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries

714549.jpg (1024×787)

 From Ansel Adams; to Edwin Land, Co-Founder of the Polaroid Corporation; to Edward Mills Purcell (winner of the Nobel Prize, 1952); by descent to Dennis and Rosamond Purcell. 

Ansel Adams' position in the pantheon of master photographers is assured by his magisterial landscape studies, of which Moonrise, Hernandez is his most famous and revered photograph. This photographic print was apparently created during the 1950s, the decade in which it was gifted by Adams to Land. To date, it is the only known print from the 1950s to be offered at a public auction.

The subject matter of the picture is rich and symbolic, conveying the sense of awe Adams associated with the natural landscape. And, this particular print also apparently demonstrates Adams' earliest "re-interpretation" of the negative, which he reprocessed in 1948--the same year he began working for Edwin Land (1909-1991), and a year after Land introduced an instant camera. In later years, Land encouraged Adams to make mural-size enlargements from his Polaroid negatives, providing further evidence of the quality of the film. 

In 1948 Adams intensified the lower portion of the image area to increase contrast. (Adams had remarked that it was difficult to craft photographs from the original negative, which is why vintage prints are so scarce.) After he reprocessed the negative, increasing details in the foreground, the composition of the image had greater aesthetic dimension and emotional resonance. In this iteration of Moonrise, the dark sky sets off a luminous foreground, in which the crosses seem to glow from within. The serene, waxing moon has resulted in a scene that was said ". . . punctuates the meeting of heaven and earth." 

The picture was shot on October 31, 1941, Halloween day, at 4:05 PM, in the afternoon. Interestingly, Adams could not recall when he actually made the photograph, claiming it was sometime between 1941-44. (A scientist at the High Altitude Observatory, Boulder, Colorado, determined the date and time based on the moon's position in the sky.) However, Adams proudly recalled the story associated with the picture, which is the stuff of legend. After a discouraging day in the field with his son and an assistant, Adams was driving home when he "saw an extraordinary situation--an inevitable photograph! I almost ditched the car and rushed to set up my 8x10-inch view camera . . . but I could not find my exposure meter! The situation was desperate: the low sun was trailing the edge of clouds in the west, and shadow would seem to dim the white crosses." Adams set his large-format view camera on a tripod on top of his car. Having pre-visualized the image, he managed to take a single negative before the sun set and light irrevocably shifted. 

In the previous decade, the 1930s, Adams developed the Zone System, a set of principles used to determine the correct exposure for the negative and the widest possible range of tonality for a print. A consummate technician, once the negative had been reprocessed Adams developed new ways of interpreting the poetic scene. For example, prints from the 1960s depict a scene with deeper contrast, in which the sky appears darker. In his prints from the 1970s, Adams darkened the sky even more dramatically; the result was a picture that appears to have been shot at night. 

The scientist Edward Purcell (1912-1997) developed a close friendship with Edwin H. Land, whom he met in 1950. They both served on the Science Advisory Committee that began under President Eisenhower in response to the Soviet Sputnik revelations. There, Purcell chaired the subcommittee on space; he and Land wrote, with the participation of Frank Bello, formerly of Fortune magazine, a pamphlet sometimes called the 'Space Primer' to educate people about the possibilities of space exploration. Purcell and Adams met at about this same time and enjoyed an active friendship as members of a Supper Club, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

The image has been reproduced in: 

Ansel Adams: Classic Images, p. 32. 

Photography in America, p. 130-31. 

Photography from 1839 to Today, p. 643. 

Masterworks of American Photography: The Amon Carter Museum Collection, p. 125. 

Ansel Adams in the Lane Collection, p. 37. 

Ansel Adams (1972), p. 63. 

Ansel Adams at 100, p. 96. 

Ansel Adams: The Grand Canyon and the Southwest,frontispiece. 

Price Realized (with Buyer's Premium) $221,000

Ansel Adams' iconic Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico was the top lot in last week's photographs auction Art & Storytelling. The mural-size photographic print has a remarkable association and provenance: it was originally gifted by Adams to Edwin Land, founder of the Polaroid Corporation, who subsequently gave the artwork to his friend and colleague, Cambridge-based scientist Edward Purcell, who won the Nobel Prize in 1952.
For more on the story of Moonrise, Hernandez, watch this video.
The sale also resulted in new auction records for photographers William Saunders($65,000), and Wilson A. Bentley ($52,000).
*As always, Passed Time would like to thank Swann Auction Galleries for this information, the photograph and the updates!





















Leave your comments

Post comment as a guest

terms and condition.

People in this conversation

Museum says missing Nazi submarine mystery solved

A Danish war museum says it found German U-boat U-3523 embedded on the sea floor, quashing years of speculation.



The Face of a Monster: America's Frankenstein

The Paperback of the The Face of a Monster: America's Frankenstein by Patricia Earnest Suter at Barnes & Noble. FREE Shipping on $25 or more!

USS Indianapolis wreckage found 72 years later - CNN Video

The remains of the USS Indianapolis, which delivered parts of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, and was later sunk by a Japanese submarine, have been found.


Gaming etc.


Top 5 Mistakes Made by Game Company Executives


Modern Tabletop Arcades


Ahead of Their Time: Discontinued Game Consoles


Andrew Kamal is an app developer, programmer, and inventor who loves writing about historical technology and old games. He can be found in his free time hugging pugs and debating people about which pizza topics are better.












Siberia: Medieval Mummies From Mystery Arctic Civilization Discovered in Zelenyy Yar Necropolis

Two medieval mummies from a mystery Arctic civilization have been discovered at the edge of Siberia. The remains of an adult and baby were found in the Zelenyy Yar necropolis, an archaeological complex first discovered in 1997, and were covered in copper-with the adult having been plated from head to


Search This Site

Civil War Coloring Pages

Civil War Coloring Pages


Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

Page 4

Page 5

Library Company of Philadelphia

3d3f021a fd46 408d bfb6 eae0726eb7b8

A New Looking-Glass for the 1764 Pamphlet War




BibleRescue - Reuniting famly bibles with family

The family bible is a family's connection to the past and future. It connects an entire family across generations to their history, to their faith and provides an understanding of who their ancestors were. Family bibles often contain locks of hair, photographs, newspaper articles in addition to names, dates of birth, death and marriages.




be2acded e529 4958 b99a 550d69cebf62

ec91d0e7 13a7 4862 a980 bb23936626f6

25rd Annual Art & Leisure Auction

Features “Flashback Friday” Theme


Fastnacht Day: February 28 at

York County History Center

Fastnacht Day will be celebrated at the York County History Center’s Historical Society Museum on Tuesday, February 28, 2017, from 9:30 a.m. – noon. The Friends of the History Center will serve fastnachts, coffee, tea and hot chocolate at the Museum, located at 250 E. Market Street, York.

This free event is held each year as the Friends’ “thank you” to the community for their support throughout the year. Fastnacht Day originated with Pennsylvania Germans on Shrove Tuesday, when all fat had to be removed from the home before Lent.

The Friends hold fundraising events all year to benefit the programs and exhibits of the History Center.


York County History Center Closed January 26-27, 2017



universal York banner

Universal York Blog

Did colonial courthouse windows end up in the Dover area?

Jonathan Mifflin turns down York County post

York, Pa., really is the center of the universe, especially when you consider its place in historical events. Local historian June Lloyd looks at how things have converged on our hometown, past and present.





Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Pearl Harbor and the Erosion of Citizenship

1f349cd8 b394 4e98 b1cb 3c22f7b3570e





Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society | Preserving the culture of Mennonite-related faith communities in Lancaster County

Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society has added a new field trip to the 2016 schedule of events. Get a new view of historic sights in Lancaster and Lebanon with the upcoming field trip, "The Trail of Greenywalt's Boys."


Special Offer

VALUE PACK – Books For Genealogists


Letterpress Printing Game

Links to External Sources

Windsor Historical Society

Windsor Historical Society - The museum, library, and historic houses explore 370 years of history in Connecticut's oldest English town


Latest Blogs


American Antiquarian Society

About AAS The American Antiquarian Society is a national research library of American history and culture through 1876.more



Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs


African American History Month programs among 18 special events at the museums of the State of Delaware during February 2018


Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs to sponsor eight free programs during January 2018


Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs to sponsor 21 special programs during the 2017 winter-holiday season


“Doctor Who and William Penn” to be presented at Dover, Del.’s Old State House on Aug. 19, 2017


Newsletter of the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs July 28, 2017 * Volume 10, Issue 7


Newsletter of the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs June 29, 2017 * Volume 10, Issue 6



Online survey seeks public input regarding the preservation of historic places in Delaware


Newsletter of the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs June 1, 2017 * Volume 10, Issue 5


Zwaanendael Maritime Celebration: “A Sailor’s Life for Me” in Lewes, Del. on May 27 and 28, 2017

Andrew British Sailor WWI


Newsletter of the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs March 27, 2017 * Volume 10, Issue 3


Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs to sponsor 14 free programs during March 2017


New exhibit now open at Lewes, Del.’s Zwaanendael Museum


“Listen Up! African-American History” program Rescheduled


Newsletter of the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs Jan. 31, 2017 * Volume 10, Issue 1


  African American History Month programs among 17 special events at the museums of the State of Delaware during February 2017











Virginia Tech was not the worst school massacre in U.S. history. This was.

That spring morning in 1927 could not have been more beautiful, one of the students would later recall. The Bath Consolidated School just outside East Lansing, Mich., was holding final exams, but before the morning bell rang on May 18, 1927, children ran and played outside. Peals of laughter could be heard.


WWII veteran's remains return home after missing 74 years

ATLANTA (AP) - More than 70 years ago, a U.S. Army plane dubbed "Hot as Hell" was headed for India on a supply mission. It never arrived, and no one went looking for the doomed aircraft or the eight men on board because military officials had no way of pinpointing where it went down.

Sword belonging to commander of black Civil War unit found

BOSTON (AP) - The sword that belonged to the commanding officer of the first all-black regiment raised in the North during the U.S. Civil War has been recovered after being lost to history for more than 150 years. The British-made sword carried into battle by Col.


'America's Frankenstein': Book to examine Philly's 'first mass murderer'

An upcoming book seeks to find the links between the fable of Frankenstein and a brutal Philadelphia mass murder that occurred nearly 50 years after the release of the famous novel. In "The Face of a Monster: America's Frankenstein," Delaware author Patricia Earnest Suter revisits the gruesome killings of eight people at the hands of Anton Probst in 1866.

Jaw-dropping discovery: Soldier's diary retells WWI horrors

Norman Gray, a fresh-faced 19-year-old was shipped off to France in 1914 to fight in World War I. Now his diary resurfaced, documenting the horrors of war.



Maria Tesch, 1850-1936 * - Kulturarv Östergötland

Östgötsk kulturhistoria. Uppgifter om arkiv, bibliotek, museer, hembygdsföreningar m.m.