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Ansel Adams

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 and environmentalists.

Ansel Adams
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.

Ansel Adams Photo

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 Smithsonian Institution.
Ansel Adams Half Dome
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.



 


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