Ansel Adams in Color

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Overview

This landmark book presents fifty majestic images by America's greatest landscape photographer - the first time that an important body of Ansel Adams' color work has ever been published. Ansel Adams began to photograph in color soon after Kodachrome was invented in the mid-1930s, and shot more than 3,000 color images during the course of his lifetime. Very few of these photographs, however, were published or exhibited. As Adams remarked late in his life after observing the advances in color printing techniques, ...
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Overview

This landmark book presents fifty majestic images by America's greatest landscape photographer - the first time that an important body of Ansel Adams' color work has ever been published. Ansel Adams began to photograph in color soon after Kodachrome was invented in the mid-1930s, and shot more than 3,000 color images during the course of his lifetime. Very few of these photographs, however, were published or exhibited. As Adams remarked late in his life after observing the advances in color printing techniques, "People are skeptical about my thoughts on color. I do not blame them, as I have protested it and have not shown my color pictures. I feel the urge now and I wish I were sixty years younger!" The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust, working with the distinguished photographer Harry Callahan, has at last agreed to publish the best of Adams' color work. The result is a major event in the history of photographic publishing - an eye-opening work that is certain to stimulate controversy and debate. The photographs presented here are vibrant yet subtle, suffused throughout with Adams' passionate love of the American landscape and marked by the technical mastery and distinctive vision that are the hallmarks of his black-and-white photography. Employing state-of-the-art color imaging and printing technology, Ansel Adams in Color faithfully reproduces dozens of unforgettable color photographs of the American wilderness and enables us to appreciate anew the grandeur and artistry of Adams' vision. These magnificent images, accompanied by an introductory essay by James Enyeart and a selection of Ansel Adams' thoughtful, often contradictory writings on color photography, add a fascinating new dimension to Adams' enduring legacy.

This landmark book presents 50 majestic full-color images by great American landscape photographer Ansel Adams. This breathtaking work marks the first time a significant portion of Adams' color work has ever been published. Includes a selection of Adams' fascinating writings on color photography.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Although he claimed he did not like color photography, Ansel Adams nonetheless produced a highly accomplished if relatively small body of color work, selections of which are gathered here. These scintillating images embody the same refined detail and delicacy of light seen in Adams's black-and-white photographs. In fact, the subtleties of light so often overwhelmed in color photography are clearly evident here. Characterized by restrained, at times understated hues, the photographs are consistently remarkable. They have been ably selected and arranged by editor Callahan and are further enhanced by an informative introduction by James L. Enyeart. This beautifully designed and printed work, which is well worth its price, should be considered a standard title in all public and academic library collections. Highly recommended.-- Raymond Bial, Parkland Coll. Lib., Champaign, Ill.
Booknews
Adams began to photograph in color soon after Kodachrome was invented in the mid-1930s, but a collection of his color work has never been published. This presentation unveils the great photographer's color legacy in 50 beautifully reproduced photos, with an introductory essay, and a selection of Adams's thoughtful, often contradictory writings on color photography. 10.5x11.5" Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Gretchen Garner
Adams died in 1984, still planning a book on color photography, a topic that he had wrestled with since the 1950s and that gave him profound discomfort. He allowed that were he a young photographer in the 1980s, he'd work in color, yet in the last letter quoted herein he confessed, "I don't like photographic color. . . . It is not my dish of tea!" In other remarks, he was more analytic about color's challenges. Mostly, he regretted lack of control over intensity and hue, which afforded him no way to transform color as he transformed and exaggerated tonal values in black-and-white. For Adams, black-and-white was an abstract medium and color was inseparable from banal realism. He also sensed in himself a lack of "color imagination," the quality that distinguished the work of his colleague and friend Eliot Porter. He was right, yet he produced 3,000 color transparencies, most as tests for Kodak or for 1940s and 1950s commercial jobs. Eminent color photographer Harry Callahan culled 59 landscapes from this work for this album, which thoroughgoing photography collections will want in order to document Adams' beliefs about color photography and as testimony to the problems color has presented as a creative medium.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780821219805
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 4/28/1994
  • Pages: 132
  • Product dimensions: 10.34 (w) x 11.24 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

In a career that spanned six decades, Ansel Adams was at once America's foremost landscape photographer and one of its most ardent environmentalists.

James Enyeart is the Director of the International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House. Formerly director of the Center for Creative Photography, he is the author of Decade by Decade: 20th Century American Photography(NYGS, 1989).

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Read an Excerpt

Ansel Adams in Color


By Ansel Adams

Bulfinch Press

Copyright © 1993 Trustees of The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-821-21980-4


Chapter One

QUEST FOR COLOR By James L. Enyeart

It will be of no little surprise to the public and scholars alike that Ansel Adams made more than three thousand color transparencies. He is, of course, known for his black-and-white photography- elegant, silver-laden tableaux of nature-which changed American landscape photography from being essentially documentary and derivative of nineteenth-century painting to an expression of purely photographic drama and effect. His unique vision and technical virtuosity inspired a school of followers-students, imitators, and admirers-who make up the largest, most coherent photographic audience of this century.

However, what remains largely unknown to the public is the extent of Ansel Adams' involvement with color photography. He actively and persistently explored color for over forty years. He not only made photographs in the form of color transparencies, but also published articles on color, exhibited a selection of prints in the exhibition "Color Photography" in 1950 at the Museum of Modern Art, and left nearly two hundred pages of letters and notes on his philosophy of color photography. It was his belief that color would become, along with electronic imaging, the medium of the future it had been his intention to produce a book on the aesthetics of color, the fifth volume in his technical series, though he denied it would be a technical book. The notes and letters quoted here were drafted by Adams with that book in mind. Thus, while most of his involvement with color, with the exception of commercial assignments, remained unknown to the public, Adams developed within the privacy of his own studio an appreciation for color as an art form.

In one version of a draft introduction to the planned color book (1978), Adams explained his basic reason for publicly addressing his concerns for color photography so late in life:

I should state here that most of my readers do not think of me as being a color photographer. In fact, I have given the impression of being hostile towards it. During my professional years I did a lot of work with Kodachrome. I never engaged in color printing, but I did concern myself with printing press reproductions, Were I entering photography now as a young man I undoubtedly would deeply concern myself with color. I stayed with black-and-white simply because I enjoyed the controls the process offered. However, I feel strongly that color photography is one of the major expressions of our time. I have applied visualization and the zone system to a great variety of color images and I find both are compatible and effective.

Yet his ongoing quest to apprehend color as a medium of personal expression and his sometimes optimistic statements about color represent only part of the story. Color presented three issues of artistic concern that plagued Adams throughout his life: reality, control, and aesthetics. Each in its own way prevented him from ever fully engaging the medium as an artistic endeavor. These concerns are examined in depth in the text that follows. Moreover, Adams maintained deep feelings of self-doubt in respect to his own color efforts. Late in his life he wrote:

I have done no color of consequence for thirty years! I have a problem with color-I cannot adjust to the limited controls of values and colors. With black-and-white I feel free and confident of results.

However, I have done some color in the past which is acceptable.... The Kodachromes have lasted the best of all. I am perplexed over what to do about the good transparencies, as some are worthy of preservation.

It is the intention of this book to present Ansel Adams' unpublished color legacy. This essay provides a historical context for understanding Adams' experiments with the medium of color photography, and, to the extent that appreciation for his work is also gained, the history of photography is better served.

Considering all that has occurred in color photography since Adams' death in 1984, our eyes may be more accepting and understanding of his work than his were in his own time. Adams was plagued with a neverending search for confidence in his own color images, even though he recognized the accomplishments of others. It was decided, therefore, that it would be appropriate to invite a fellow artist, one of his peers, to select examples of his color work for reproduction-to hold up a mirror, as it were, to history.

Harry Callahan, a photographer of Adams' generation (he is now eighty) who has often expressed the debt he owes to Adams in terms of his own work, enthusiastically accepted an invitation to apply his visual sensibilities to this task. Esteemed as one of America's greatest visual poets and admired for his color and black-and-white work, Callahan is a virtual magician in selecting from the world at large objects of significance and recreating their scale, light, and position so that they become altogether new visions of reality.

It was, after all, an altered reality that had moved him in 1941 when he first saw Adams' black-and-white landscape photographs. Even more important, he gained an appreciation of technical control, which Adams provided in his Detroit lecture of that year and in subsequent meetings whenever Callahan needed to test a technical idea. When he saw Adams' prints for the first time and heard his explanation of process, Callahan realized fully that he too would be able to make prints that would satisfy his own aesthetic desires and abilities.

Callahan readily agreed to apply his keen visual perception, "what looks good" in his words, to making this selection of Adams' photographs. Adams did not consider his many commercial works to be part of his personal creations, so the selection was limited to the landscapes that he had produced for his own pleasure and satisfaction. Callahan selected the fifty works in this book from nearly a thousand transparencies. His method was intuitive and straightforward; he described it as "selecting those things that pleased me." And this is as it should be between one artist and another. If color in one image had slightly shifted through the years this was of no concern to Callahan. He responded to his task as a contemporary artist-visually-without justification, adjustments for historical reasons, or concern for what the image might once have looked like. The task before him, as he saw it, was to select the best pictures according to what his eye had taught him over the past fifty years.

Callahan never involved himself in Adams' philosophical defense of not making color photographic prints or, for that matter, his photographic philosophizing in general. He admired much of Adams' work, and that was sufficient reason for his aesthetic interests; he did not need nor did he want explanation of the creative process.

Callahan could accept the idea that Adams chose never to make prints from his color work, especially in view of the limitations and changes in materials over the years. Just as artists like Adams and Callahan were beginning to explore the aesthetic value of color with confidence, their primary choice of materials began to disappear. Dye-transfer printing, which required three separation negatives (one for each primary color of cyan, magenta, and yellow), allowed a considerable amount of control. Three relief matrices made from the separation negatives were dyed and transferred to a photographic paper base, resulting in rich, saturated color prints. Adams experimented in one or two cases with it, but Callahan produced a substantial body of color work by this process. Unfortunately, dye-transfer was no longer widely available by the mid-1980s.

Callahan felt about dye-transfer printing the same way that Paul Strand felt about platinum prints: once the ideal process was no longer possible, then one's judgment of quality had to be based solely on content. The loss of a print's unique visual appearance, its syntax, produced by a particular technique like dye-transfer eroded the base of its particular color aesthetic. Both artists tried a few other

Color printing techniques without satisfaction. Callahan. therefore. looked at Adams' color transparencies in the same way. He selected images based on their content without concern for what they might have been as color prints.

In order to appreciate Adams' work in color and his seemingly contradictory feelings of apprehension of and attraction to the medium, some background information is necessary. Hence, let us probe briefly into the history of color photography and then examine Adams' actual involvement with color, and his fundamental artistic concerns.

Prevailing attitudes about color photography before and during Adams' career played an important role in fostering his reticence toward, and his simultaneous desire to master, what he called "a beguiling medium."

From as early as 1843 Henry Fox Talbot had offered through his photographic establishment in Reading and in his London studio hand-colored calotypes of both portraits and scenes. He sold them for twice the cost of a print in its original monochrome form. But Talbot was not enthusiastic about the results.

Hand coloring of photographs, including cartes de visite and cabinet cards of the 1850s and 1860s, not to mention daguerreotypes, was part of the commercial bias that condescended to a public desire for natural color images. But like Talbot, those interested in the aesthetic potential of the medium had less than enthusiastic thoughts about the introduction of such color. J. H. Croucher, an American photographer, made the following statement in an 1853 book about the daguerreotype process:

While it is true that a little colour may relieve the dark metallic look of some daguerreotypes, it must not be concealed that the covering of the fine delicate outlines and exquisite gradations of tone of a good picture with such a coating [hand tinting] is barbarous and inartistic. The prevailing taste is, however, decidedly for coloured proofs, and the following directions will assist the amateur in ministering to this perverted taste, should he be so inclined.

Croucher presaged the sentiments of most photographers who practiced conventional monochrome photography as an art form well into the last quarter of the twentieth century.

In a similar vein the issue of the public's attraction to colored images centered on the curious debate photographers have always had among themselves about their medium, that of reality. To the general public, photography has always represented a means of capturing reality, and color serves only to enhance the illusion. For photographers, photography has historically been either a vessel of truth (documentary) or an abstraction (personal interpretation), but it has never been confused with reality. Color seemed to beg the question of reality for both the public and photographers.

Adams' own statements reflect the ongoing prejudice and fear of color photography among the medium's practitioners well into our century. Exactly one hundred and thirty years after the condemnation of coloring photographs by Croucher, Adams wrote an elaborate statement on the same subject, found in notes written on March 22, 1983

Color photography is a beguiling medium in that it offers some apparent simulation of reality, to which the majority of the public respond. Because of economic necessity, the development of color has been keyed to popular demand (much more than black-and-white photography), and the approach to professional work has focused on "realism " of color and fail-safe technology.

The taste-makers in color photography are the manufacturers, advertisers in general and the public with their insatiable appetite for the 'snappy snapshot." I have come to the conclusion that the understanding and appreciation of color involves. The illusion that the color photograph represents the colors of the world as we think we perceive them to be. The images are, at best, poor simulations, but the perceptive alchemy translates the two-dimensional picture into the common world of experience. Picture reality is a philosophical and psychological impossibility. Color pictures are so ubiquitous that the casual viewer comes to accept them as the true "reality ", the color process reveals for them the real world, which is not hard to understand because the "real world" is, for most people, an artifact of the industrial/material surround. The colors of the urban environment are for the most part far more garish and "unrelated" than we find in nature. The Creator did not go to art school and natural color, while more gentle and subtle, seldom has what we call aesthetic resonance.

Color is seen as a debased desire on the part of an unknowing public, who values a semblance of reality over the personal vision of a photographer expressed in black-and-white. Aesthetic judgment held little sway over the magic and mystery of an illusion that looked just like things seemed to be in life, no matter how ordinary. The photographer was left with the inevitable pain of knowing that the majority of people could not appreciate "the fine delicate outlines and exquisite gradations of tone" in 1853 and 1983 alike.

The first actual color photographic process, as opposed to hand coloring of photographs, that approximates the technology we know today and that Adams experienced in his time was published as a theory by Clerk Maxwell (a Scotsman) in 1855. It was, however, a Frenchman, Louis Ducos du Hauron, who put theory to practice and produced examples as part of the publication of his own color process in 1869. Ducos du Hauron gave to black-and-white photography the original color process of mixing colors by using filters, a technical manifestation of his desire to achieve color separations for book illustration and for reproductions of works of art.

Ducos du Hauron's invention of the color separation process failed commercially for a variety of reasons, but it inspired a rapid sequence of improvements. In 1880 Charles Cros (also French) published a method of making color prints (imbibition) that is considered the precursor to modern dye-transfer color printing, which until its recent demise was itself the preferred printing process by artists. In 1892 an American, Frederick Ives, developed an apparatus called the Kromstop, which resembled a stereo viewer, to view simultaneously three color-separation negatives through a mirrored sequence, resulting in a full-color image. It was reported to have been "invaluable for evening parties, at homes, conversations, garden parties, etc. and is the most beautiful invention of the nineteenth century."

From the first hand-colored prints and daguerreotypes to various inventions and improvements in color photography at the end of the nineteenth century, color was enthusiastically received only by the public and then for the wrong reasons, according to photographers.

Continues...


Excerpted from Ansel Adams in Color by Ansel Adams Copyright © 1993 by Trustees of The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 31 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 18, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Beautiful photographs - a first peek into Ansel Adams' original color photos!

    "Throughout his life Ansel remained ambivalent about color photography - a sampling of his reflections on the subject is included at the end of this book. Much of his antipathy toward color stemmed from the extremely poor quality of color photographing. Another source of his frustration was the inability to adequately translate the brilliance of a color transparency into a fine print."
    -Foreward by John P. Schaefer and Andrea G. Stillman

    I had always loved Ansel Adams' black and white photographs of nature. His photos of Yosemite had added to the pleasure of my trip to the National Park years ago. I hadn't known that Ansel Adams had worked in color, much less, that he had over 3,000 color transparencies. He had worked with color photography when the medium and technology was in its early stages. His frustration with the technical limitations explain why he is best known for his black and white work. However, with the developments in photography and computers, it is now possible to see his work as he would have been prepared to show it.

    The photos in this book were selected by a photographer of Adams' generation and fellow member of the Detroit Camera Club who has expressed the debt he owed Adams for the direction and advice. Callahan is also highly regarded and has been described as one of America's greatest visual poets. He chose the photos based on his own aesthetic pleasure - "selecting those things that pleased me" without adjustments for historical reasons or concern for what the image might have looked like once.

    The essays and text that accompany the stunning photographs give a fuller understanding of Ansel Adams' work and the development of the art of photography. This book is such a pleasure - whether you read it carefully or glance at the photographs.

    Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; Revised edition edition (October 21, 2009), 168 pages.
    Review copy provided by the publisher.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 22, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    America in color!

    Thank you to Hachette Book Group for my copy of this wonderful book. Everyone's heard of Ansel Adams, America's foremost landscape photographer. In fact, whenever I spot a black and white landscape, I think of him. However, this eye-opening collection of spectacularly detailed color photographs expands my admiration of his work.

    This volume is more than a collection of magnificent color photographs; in addition, it contains a comprehensive essay, "Quest for Color" by James L. Enyeart, photographic historian. The heavy volume concludes with "Selected Writings on Color Photography by Ansel Adams. This book would be a treasure for anyone interested in photography, art, and/or America. What a remarkable gift it would make!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Ansel Adams in Living Color!

    The title says it all: "Ansel Adams in Color." Who knew that America's premier black and white photographer performed his film magic in color too? I certainly didn't.

    "Ansel Adams in Color" is filled with Adams' gorgeous, technicolor, photographs along with accompanying essays. While Adams was ambivalent about working in color -- primarily due to the technical limitations at the time -- today's digital advancements allow the photos to shine. These majestic photos were taken primarily in the 40's- 50's and capture America's natural landscape at its zenith. The photographs include breathtaking shots of the Grand Canyon; Yosemite National Park; Death Valley; Hawaii; Alaska, Wyoming; and much more!

    "Ansel Adams in Color" would be a welcome edition to the collection of any photographer or Adams' admirer.



    Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; Rev'd edition(Oct. 21, 2009), 168 pages.
    Review Copy Provided Courtesy of Hachette Book Group.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 15, 2009

    Awesome

    This has become my "I need a break" book. You know when you have read all the intense books, seen all the intense news, and you just need to get away? I can look at the photos (I love photography) and drift and/or read the commentary and imagine.

    I think I love color photography the best because of hues and intensity and, maybe the reality of vision.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 16, 2010

    If Anything It's Better Than Than the Original Edition

    I love this book. I had a copy of the 1993 edition that I thought was really spectacular until my Labrador Puppy got a hold of it. I understand the problems of creating high quality prints from color transparencies. However, modern scanning and printing technology has overcome many of those issues and this is a truly spectacular library quality collection of Adam's lesser known work in color.

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  • Posted May 10, 2010

    I LOVE THIS BOOK

    THIS IS A GREAT BOOK TO GIVE AS A GIFT OR JUST PUT ON YOUR COFFEE TABLE FOR GLANCING AT BY YOU OR YOUR GUESTS.

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  • Posted May 6, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    OUTSTANDING!

    This book is a beautiful collection of Ansel Adam's color photos brought to life for our enjoyment. I feel these photos are just as wonderful and as haunting as his black and white photos. And the historic narrative just added to the overall enjoyment of this book.
    I highly recommend this book to everyone.

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  • Posted February 22, 2010

    beautiful

    if you know ansel adams work you know he is an incredible artist. what he could see and then actually pick up thru his lens is awesome. his work is beautiful and i recommend it to all you love the beauty of nature.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2010

    good gift

    Gave as a gift to my granddaughter who is studying photography and she loved it!

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  • Posted February 6, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Ansel Adams stil wows all these years later...

    A wonderful book on the often overlooked color photography of unquestiionably the greatest landscape photographer in Ameican history. We all are familiar of his B&W work, but when we are reminded of his color work, as in this book it is truly awe inspiring. Love the addition of historic narrative text, so it is not "just" a picture book. Some critics may be bothered of the smaller size of this book, however, the color plates are sharp and vibrant, and, if the size is why the book is so affordable, a welcome trade off.

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  • Posted February 6, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    All of Ansel Adams' work should be COLORIZED

    These Ansel Adams photos appear to be original color photos. Ansel Adams is great, and all of his work should be colorized. I know there are those that want to preserve the obsolete and deny my right to see everything in color. There say the original artist should decide if his work can be colorized.

    My particular vision needs good contrast, and color is easier to see. I have as much right to view art in color as does someone who can't walk have the right to use a wheel chair. Woody Allen and those who want to take these rights away are Bigots.

    As a teenager, I hiked all over the Sierras (and later the Rocky's), and I always ignored Black and White Ansel Adams, so I'm so glad to see him in color.

    The Rockies are more colorful than the Sierras, so check them out

    I like Galen Rowell's work better. He and his wife crashed in a small plane, and we are all poorer for that.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 31, 2010

    Fantastic! Inspiring!!

    Encourages me to create better photography.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 30, 2010

    Gift

    I purchased this a gift for my photographer Grandson and he loves it...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2010

    Ansel Adams

    A different look at the work of Ansel Adams. Most of his books are black and white while this book is in color.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2009

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