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Ansel Adams

wilderness photographer

Ansel Adams

Ansel Easton Adams was born in 1902, in San Francisco. He manifested an early interest in the piano, which he hoped to develop into a professional career, but that interest would be superseded by a 1916 trip into the Yosemite Valley.

The photos Adams took on that trip inspired him to film, in black and white, the majesty of the American wilderness. By 1920 he had formed an association with the Sierra Club. His first portfolio, Parmelian Prints of the High Sierra, was published in 1927. His first important one-man show was held in 1931 at the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum, and that same year his work was exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution. In 1933, he opened the Ansel Adams Gallery in San Francisco. Making a Photograph, his first book dealing with photographic technique, was published in 1935.

In 1940, Adams and David McAlpin co-founded the Department of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City. During World War II, Adams worked as a photomuralist for the Department of the Interior. Work from a wartime photo essay on the plight of interned Japanese-Americans was exhibited at MoMA in 1944 under the title Born Free and Equal. In 1946, he established the first college department of photography at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute).

In 1948, Adams received a Guggenheim Fellowship to photograph national park locations and monuments. That same year he published Portfolio 1: In Memory of Alfred Stieglitz; he also began publication of his Basic Photo Series. In 1950, he published Portfolio 2: The National Parks and Monuments. In 1953, in collaboration with Dorothea Lange, he did a photo essay on the Mormons in Utah for Life magazine. Portfolio 3: Yosemite Valley was published by the Sierra Club in 1960.

In 1962, Adams moved to Carmel, California. In 1967, he helped found the Friends of Photography, of which he became president. He retired from active photography soon afterward, devoting the rest of his life to revising the Basic Photo Series, publishing books of his life's work, and preparing prints for exhibitions. He died in 1984.

Other collections of his work include:
Taos Pueblo (1930)
Sierra Nevada (1948)
This Is the American Earth (1960)
Yosemite and the Range of Light (1979)

The Ansel Adams Gallery

San Francisco
World War II

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This page was last updated on 07/12/2018.