Ansel Adams' soaring black-and-white photographs
of the nature of the American West, particularly of Yosemite
National Park, have inspired generations of nature photographers
Photographer Ansel Adams
Adams, who was born February 20, 1902 in San Francisco,
was an environmentalist, inspired by his father, Charles Hitchcock
Adams, who raised him with the idea that man had a moral obligation
with respect to man and nature. He had joined the Sierra Club
when he was 17, and served on its board for 37 years.
His interest in photography, and of capturing
nature through images, was sparked as a youth when his father
took him to Yosemite National park in 1916 and gave him a Kodak
Brownie camera. He began educating himself full force, learning
darkroom techniques, reading photography magazines and fully
immersing himself in the photography and art worlds.
While returning to Yosemite with better cameras,
he met the Best family who owned a photography studio. Adams
eventually married Virginia Best in 1928, and when she inherited
the studio, he took over and operated it until 1971. It is now
named the Ansel Adams Gallery.
While Adams tried various formats and techniques
such as soft-focus, etching and the Bromoil Process, which was
popular with Pastoralists such as Alfred
Stieglitz, he eventually strived for a more realistic approach
to his photography.
Adams' ideas influenced many, with techniques
such as the Zone System, which he developed with Fred Archer,
a technique that determines the best possible film exposure
and development. He was a member with other noted artists of
Group f64, which he co-founded as well.
The group believed in producing precise, realistic
photographs as opposed to the artistry aspired to by the Pictorialist
style of photography. He co-founded the photography journal
Aperture, and helped form the first photography department at
the California School of Fine Arts.
In his work, Adams used large format cameras to
capture precisely the nature images for which he was so well
known, such as his famous photograph, "Monolith, the Face
of Half Dome," which he took in 1927.
In the 1930s, he met other artists who influenced
and encouraged Adams in his work including photographer Alfred
Stieglitz introduced him to painter Georgia O'Keeffe, photographer
Paul Strand and artist John Marin.
It was Strand who convinced Adams to
devote his all to photography. In 1931, Adams first solo
exhibition, of his high Sierra prints, took place at the
Half Dome in Yosemite
Adams' ascending career corresponded with his
environmental efforts. To help preserve the wilderness that
was being encroached upon by development, Adams published the
book, "Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail," which
helped secure the designation of Sequoia and Kings Canyon as
national parks in 1940.
The Sierras provided him with one of his most
famous photographs, "Clearing the Winter Storms."
During his later years, Adams spent most of his
time curating and reprinting his work for display at art museums,
including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which had put on an
important retrospective of his work in 1974.
Adams died April 22, 1984 at the age of 82 from
a heart attack.
The Rumor Mill
The rumor mill has stated that besides the accurate
biography discussed above, Ansel Adams is said to have once
made himself a diaper out of bees for the original pre-production
movie of Jackass.