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10 'Rare' Ansel Adams Photos of Los Angeles in 1940

Ansel Adams is best known for his iconic and bucolic large-format shots of Yosemite National Park, but in 1940 he also covered L.A.'s aviation industry for Fortune magazine. The California native and vanguard photographer snapped more than 200 images of Los Angeles in the midst of a rainstorm, capturing the metropolis in all its post-Depression, prewar, film-noir glory.

Beginning Saturday, Feb. 18, Downtown's drkrm Gallery is showing new silver-gelatin prints made from the original black-and-white negatives, which have remained mostly unseen until now. While these photos have been touted as "rare," that label is suspect, considering they've been available for browsing since Adams donated them to the Los Angeles Public Library back in the early '60s. "The weather was bad over a rather long period and none of the pictures were very good," Adams wrote. "At any event, I do not want them back." The library then estimated the total value of the pictures at around $150.

So, has this newly rediscovered body of work by Ansel Adams gained any value? Here are 10 photos to help us decide.

Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library and drkrm Gallery
Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library and drkrm Gallery
Ansel Adams

10. Pee, oh, pee

Ocean Front Promenade, Santa Monica

In 1958, Ocean Park Pier in Santa Monica officially became Pacific Ocean Park (it was located at Pier Avenue in the Ocean Park neighborhood, south of the current pier). "Pee oh pee," as it semi-affectionately came to be known, was an amusement park designed to compete with Disneyland, but it closed just nine years later, eventually turning into the Dogtown skate park in the 1970s.

Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library and drkrm Gallery
Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library and drkrm Gallery
Ansel Adams

9. Dirty laundry

Olympic Trailer Court, West Los Angeles

The Olympic Trailer Court was located at 2121 Bundy Drive in West L.A., where, according to Zillow, houses now are selling between $640,000 and $1.2 million.

Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library and drkrm Gallery
Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library and drkrm Gallery
Ansel Adams

8. Striking it rich

Oil rig on La Cienega, near Beverly Boulevard

What happened to the oil derrick on La Cienega Boulevard, near Beverly? It became the Beverly Center, where the only black gold merchants now accept is Amex.

Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library and drkrm Gallery
Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library and drkrm Gallery
Ansel Adams

7. Hat trick

Brown Derby on Wilshire Boulevard

One of several "Derby" restaurants (but the only one in the shape of a hat), the Brown Derby at 3377 Wilshire Blvd. was sold in 1975, eventually becoming the Brown Derby Plaza strip mall. Nowadays it's a Korean shopping center, part of which still vaguely resembles a bowler hat.

Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library and drkrm Gallery
Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library and drkrm Gallery
Ansel Adams

6. Send in the clowns

Santa's Circus, Wilshire Boulevard

Benefiting the British War Relief Association of Southern California, Santa's Circus on Wilshire Boulevard featured attractions such as a riding act, seals, wire-walking clowns, and a dog-and-pony show. In other words, not much has changed.

Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library and drkrm Gallery
Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library and drkrm Gallery
Ansel Adams

5. Wall of Fame

Earl Carroll Theatre, Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood

"Through these portals pass the most beautiful girls in the world." So read the sign above the Earl Carroll Theatre on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. A reproduction of the sign can be found at Universal CityWalk, by way of the Museum of Neon Art. Another of the building's distinctive features was the Wall of Fame, with signatures by the likes of Edward G. Robinson, Charles Laughton, Bob Hope, Nelson Eddy, Ginger Rogers and Mickey Rooney. These days, the building is the West Coast headquarters for Nickelodeon's live-action TV. Something tells us the star power just isn't the same with the cast of iCarly.

Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library and drkrm Gallery
Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library and drkrm Gallery
Ansel Adams

4. A streetcar named no more

Sixth and Broadway, Downtown

This intersection looks pretty much the same today, except there aren't any cute little red cars to help trolley us around.

Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library and drkrm Gallery
Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library and drkrm Gallery
Ansel Adams

3. Another funicular?

City Hall as seen from the Court Flight Railroad

This view also hasn't changed much, except there isn't a Court Flight Railroad anymore. At least we still have Angels Flight.

Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library and drkrm Gallery
Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library and drkrm Gallery
Ansel Adams

2. Hot specials

Lunch stand, Burbank

Before the roach coach and the gourmet food truck, it was all about the lunch stand. In 1940, 25 cents bought you an order of chili, a roast beef sandwich and a Pepsi. Today, it buys you 15 minutes at a parking meter.

Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library and drkrm Gallery
Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library and drkrm Gallery
Ansel Adams

1. Working 9 to 5

Lockheed Aircraft parking lot, Burbank

Whatever happened to working 9 to 5? Now, it's more like 9 to 9, with no overtime. Back in the early '40s, the average annual salary was $3,600. So once again, not much has changed -- especially if you happen to be a freelancer.

Tanja M. Laden manages Flavorpill Los Angeles and blogs at Huffington Post. Follow her on Twitter at @PopCuriousMag and for more arts news follow @LAWeeklyArts.

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