‘Zone Eleven’ is a reference to Ansel Adams’ Zone System, a method to control the 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.
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Mike Mandel met Adams in 1975 when the former photographed the latter for Untitled (Baseball-Photographer Trading Cards), Mandel’s witty commentary on the rising status of well-known photographers of the time. This was just a couple of years before Mandel collaborated with Larry Sultan on Evidence, which was published in 1977. That book (and exhibition), composed of found photographic oddities culled from governmental and corporate archives, forged an approach to looking at vernacular pictures that wryly reveal commentary when taken out of their official context.
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’s 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 speaks to issues of social relations, the built environment, and alienation.
About the Author
Mike Mandel (born 1950) is an American conceptual artist and photographer. According to his artist profile, his work “questions the meaning of photographic imagery within popular culture and draws from snapshots, advertising, news photographs, and public and corporate archives.”
Most of the publications Mandel has been involved with have been self-published: his own, his early conceptual collaborations with Larry Sultan, and his later collaborations with Chantal Zakari. He is best known for Evidence (1977), a book of found photographs he and Sultan assembled, regarded as “one of the most influential photography titles of the past 50 years”; and for his Baseball Photographer Trading Cards (1975), a set of baseball cards with 134 different photographers and curators posing as ballplayers.
Mandel has had a solo exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and his work is in the permanent collections of major institutions.