Last Updated August 20, 2018
The Tetons and the Snake River (1942) Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

Ansel Adams

American (Born 1902 - Died 1984 ) PREMIUM LISTING Featured Hot
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Ansel_Adams_Church, Taos Pueblo (1942)
Ansel_Adams_Looking across lake toward mountains, "Evening, McDonald Lake, Glacier National Park," Montana., 1933 - 1942
Ansel Adams, Aspens, Northern New Mexico, 1958 ©Ansel Adams
Ansel Adams. Examples: The making of 40 Photographs
A master of the natural landscape photograph, Adams became famous for his spectacular, reverential images of the American West. He also was known for his technical skill, conceiving the zone system method of exposure and development control. His work is mostly known for his boldly printed, large format black-and-white images, but he also worked extensively in colour. However, he felt closest to black-and-white photography, which he believed could be manipulated to produce a wide range of bold, expressive tones, and he felt constricted by the rigidity of the colour process.

Adams was born in San Francisco in 1902. He took his first photograph in 1916. More than a dozen years later (during which time he also trained as a concert pianist), he decided on photography as a career. He first visited Yosemite National Park in 1916 with his family. He wrote of his first view of the valley: "the splendor of Yosemite burst upon us and it was glorious.... One wonder after another descended upon us.... There was light everywhere.... A new era began for me." His father gave him his first camera during that stay, a Kodak Brownie box camera. He returned to Yosemite on his own the following year with better cameras and a tripod. In the winter, he learned basic darkroom technique working part-time for a San Francisco photo finisher. Adams avidly read photography magazines, attended camera club meetings, and went to photography and art exhibits. He explored the High Sierra in summer and winter with retired geologist and amateur ornithologist Francis Holman, whom he called "Uncle Frank." During this time, he developed the stamina and skill needed to photograph at high elevation and under difficult weather conditions.

An advocate of straight, unmanipulated photography, in 1932 Adams co-founded Group f/64 (among the other founding members were Imogen Cunningham, Edward Weston, and Willard Van Dyke), and that year exhibited his work with the group at San Francisco's M. H. de Young Memorial Museum. In 1936 his images were featured in a one-person exhibition at Alfred Stieglitz's New York gallery, An American Place, and three years later he took part in group exhibitions at the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 1940 Adams helped found the department of photography at the Museum of Modern Art, and later in the decade was awarded two fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation to photograph America's national parks.

In September 1941, Adams contracted with the Department of the Interior to make photographs of National Parks, Indian reservations, and other locations for use as mural-sized prints for decoration of the department's new building. Part of his understanding with the department was that he might also make photographs for his own use, using his own film and processing. On a trip in New Mexico in 1941, Adams shot a scene of the Moon rising above a modest village with snow-covered mountains in the background, under a dominating black sky. The photograph is one of his most famous and is named Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico. Adams's description in his later books of how it was made probably enhanced the photograph's fame: the light on the crosses in the foreground was rapidly fading, and he could not find his exposure meter; however, he remembered the luminance of the Moon and used it to calculate the proper exposure.

In 1952 Adams was one of the founders of the magazine Aperture, which was intended as a serious journal of photography showcasing its best practitioners and newest innovations. He was also a contributor to Arizona Highways, a photo-rich travel magazine.

Beginning in the 1930s and continuing throughout his long, productive career, Adams published numerous books and portfolios of his images. His technical books on photography, including Making a Photograph, Basic Photo Series, and Polaroid Land Photography Manual, were also popular. Adams was influential not only as a photographer but also as a teacher, lecturer, and conservationist. In 1980 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country's highest civilian honor.

Notable photographs include...

Monolith, The Face of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, 1927.
Rose and Driftwood, San Francisco, California, 1932.
Georgia O'Keeffe and Orville Cox, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, 1937.
Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park, 1940.
Moon and Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California, 1960.
Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941.
Winter Sunrise, Sierra Nevada, from Lone Pine, California, 1944.
Aspens, Northern New Mexico, 1958.
El Capitan, Winter Sunrise, 1968.


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