'Zone Eleven' is a reference to Ansel Adams’ Zone System, a method to control exposure of the negative in order to obtain a full range of tonality in the photographic print from the deepest black of Zone 0 to the brightest highlight in Zone 10. 'Zone Eleven' is a metaphor coined by artist Mike Mandel in his challenge to create a book of Adams’ photographs outside of the bounds of his personal work.
Many of these photographs were found in the archives of his commercial and editorial assignments, and from his experimentation with the new Polaroid material of the times. For this book, Mandel has unearthed images that are unexpected for Adams, and created a new context of facing page relationships, and sequence. 'Zone Eleven' is the product of Mike Mandel’s research of over 50,000 Adams images located within four different archives to present a body of Adams’ work that was unknown until now.
Mike Mandel is well known for his collaboration with Larry Sultan in the 1970s - 1990s. They published 'Evidence' in 1977, a collection of 59 photographs chosen from more than two million images that the artists viewed at the archives of government agencies and tech-oriented corporations. Conceptually, 'Zone Eleven' is a companion book to 'Evidence'. As 'Evidence' reframes the institutional documentary photograph with new context and meaning, 'Zone Eleven' responds to the audience expectation of “the iconic Ansel Adams nature photograph.” But Mandel selects images that do not fit that expectation. 'Zone Eleven' is a book of Ansel Adams images that surprisingly speak to issues of the social relations, the built environment, and alienation.
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