Life And Career of Ansel Adams

Published on Aug 19, 2019 65 Views 3 Shares
Let's celebrate World Photography Day by taking a look at the legacy left by Ansel Adams, one of the fathers of photography

Ansel Adams - Photographer, Environmental Activist (20/Feb/1902 — 22/April/1984)

Son of Charles Hitchcock Adams, a businessman, and Olive Bray, was born in San Francisco, California (U.S.A.), close to Golden Gate Bridge. After sustaining a serious nose injury at the age of four, caused by an earthquake’s aftershock in 1907, and possibly suffering from dyslexia, saw Ansel Adams failing to adapt to several schools, which consequently saw his father and aunt tutoring Ansel at home. According to his biography, Ansel Adams managed to achieve what he described as a “legitimizing diploma” from the Mrs. Kate M. Wilkins Private School — perhaps the equivalent to eighth grade.

Early Days

His foremost aspiration was to become an instrumentalist, but it is believed that his venture into photography began with a visit to Yosemite National Park in 1916, where he made his first “amateurish” photographs. He later joined the “Sierra Club” in 1919 and worked as a caretaker in Yosemite National Park. Ansel Adams then decided to take it as a profession and published some of his most famous images, in limited edition portfolios such as: Prints of the High Sierras (1927) and Taos Pueblo (1930), with text written by Mary Austin.

In 1930 Adams met a man called Paul Strand while working in Taos, New Mexico. This meeting had a lasting effect on Adam's approach to photography by diverting his “vision” from a soft formulation of subjects, to a much clearer treatment called "straight photography". This “technique” was further reinforced when he joined the short-lived, but yet very influential “F/64 Group”, which included Imogen Cunningham and Edward Weston. The name F/64 Group referred to the lens aperture, which virtually guarantees clearer and sharper photographs.

First Publications

His first and major one-man-show was held in San Francisco, California in 1932 at the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum. Later on, Ansel Adams opened an Art Gallery, in the area of San Francisco, where he had lectured. During the 1930’s, he had also published books on the “craft of photography”, which helped to create a systematic guide in developing film photography, and turned him into an advocate for the importance of this meticulous “craftsmanship”.

In 1936, Ansel Adams met yet with another great artist, called Alfred Stieglitz, whom also contributed to the growth of his photography career by giving him a-one-man-show at his New York Art Gallery.

The Masterpieces

Around 1937, Adams relocated to Yosemite Valley, which was where his photography career began, and published the well-known masterpieces including: "The Tetons and the Snake River", John Muir Trail, Yosemite and the High Sierra, Moonrise, Illustrated Guide to Yosemite Valley, Sunset City, Oak tree, Merced River, Denali National Park, McKinley Range and many more.

Throughout most of his career, Ansel Adams also worked in commercial jobs, besides also pursuing his own photographic goals. He saw no conflict between the two “worlds” and managed both effectively, without compromising any of them.

The Legacy

Generally, Ansel Adams work provides an extensive documentation of remains of the wilderness. These beautiful scenes of nature have been responsible for not just historical purposes, but also for the survival of the places he had photographed. Ansel had the belief that the “finished product” should be visualized before it is executed; and he shared this belief among 19th century philosophers and artists, saying that "this goal or vision must be embedded within the context of life on earth".

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