Ansel Adams Biography

image of Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams (Feb. 20, 1902 - April 22, 1984), famous photographers and environmentalist, was born in San Francisco, California, son of Charles Hitchcock Adams, a businessman, and Olive Bray. The grandson of a wealthy timber baron, Adams grew up in a house in the middle of the sand dunes of Golden Gate. When Adams was only four, a replica of the great earthquake and fire of 1906 threw him to the ground and badly broke his nose, clearly marked for life. A year later the family fortune collapsed in the financial panic of 1907, Adams's father spent the rest of his life doggedly but unsuccessfully attempting to recover.

An only child, Adams was born when his mother was nearly forty. Its relatively elderly parents, family history rich, and living in the presence of her mother's unmarried sister and the father of all ages were combined to create an environment that was decidedly Victorian social, both conservative and emotionally. Adams's mother spent much of his time brooding and worrying about her husband's inability to restore the fortunes of Adams, leaving an impression ambivalent about his son. Charles Adams, however, deeply influenced and patiently, encouraged and supported his son.

natural shyness and a certain level of genius, along with the spectacular "Earthquake" the nose, caused Adams to have problems adjusting to school. In later life, said it could have been diagnosed as hyperactive. There is also the distinct possibility that she may have suffered from dyslexia. He was unsuccessful in the various schools to which his parents sent him, therefore, her father and her aunt taught her at home. Ultimately, he managed to win what he called a "certificate of legitimacy" of Mrs. Kate M. Wilkins Private School - maybe equivalent to having completed the eighth grade.

The most important result of childhood a bit lonely and certainly different from Adams was the joy he finds in nature, as evidenced by his long walks in the still wild stretches of Golden Gate. Nearly every day found him trips to the dunes or winding through Lobos Creek to Baker Beach, or to the edge of the Americas.

When Adams was twelve he taught himself to play piano and read music. He soon was taking lessons, and burning music search became her substitute for formal education. For the next twelve years, the piano was the main occupation of Adams and in 1920, their work schedule. Although ultimately gave the music to photography, piano brought the substance, the discipline and structure to his youth frustrating and erratic. On the other hand, training and care demanding craft requires a musician deeply informed his visual art as well as his influential writings and teachings about the picture.

If Adams's love of nature was nurtured in the Golden Gate, his life was, in his words, "colored and modulated by the great earth gesture" of the Yosemite Sierra (Adams, Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada , p. xiv). He spent some time there every year from 1916 until his death. Since his first visit, Adams was stopped and transformed. He began using the Kodak No. 1 Box Brownie his parents had given him. He climbed, climbed, and explored, to gain self-esteem and confidence. In 1919 he joined the Sierra Club and spent the first of four summers in Yosemite Valley, as "guardian" of LeConte Memorial Lodge Club. He made friends with many of the leaders of the club, who were founders of the nascent conservation movement in America. He met his wife, Virginia Best, in Yosemite, they were married in 1928. The couple had two children.

The Sierra Club is vital to the early success of Adams as a photographer. His first published photographs and writings appeared in 1922, Bulletin of the club, and had his first solo exhibition in 1928 clubhouse in San Francisco. Each summer the club made a trip high one month, usually in the Sierra Nevada, which attracted two hundred members. The participants walked each day to a beautiful new camp accompanied by a large contingent of pack mules, packers, and cooks. As a photographer of these outputs, in late 1920, Adams began to realize that he could earn enough to survive - indeed, it was much more likely to succeed as a photographer than as a concert pianist. In 1934 Adams was elected to the club's board of directors and was established as both the artist of the Sierra Nevada and defender of Yosemite.

Thousand nine hundred twenty-seven was the key year in the life of Adams. He made his first fully visualized photograph, Monolith, the Face of Half Dome, and took his first trip high. More importantly, was under the influence of Albert M. Bender, a San Francisco magnate insurance and patron of the arts and artists. Literally, the day after they met, Bender started the preparation and publication of the first portfolio of Adams, Parmelia impressions of the High Sierras [sic]. Bender friendship, encouragement, financial and diplomatic support Adams's life changed dramatically. His creative energy and skills as a photographer blossomed and began to have the confidence and means to pursue their dreams. In fact, the benign patronage Bender led the transformation of an official concert pianist in the artist whose pictures, like Abigail Foerstner critic wrote in the Chicago Tribune (December 3, 1992), "made by some national parks comparable to that the Homeric epics made by Ulysses. "

Although the transition from musician to the photographer Adams did not occur at the same time, his passion moved quickly after Bender came into her life, and multiplied the projects and possibilities. In addition to spending summers in the Sierra Nevada shooting, Adams made several lengthy trips to the southwest of working with Mary Austin, grande dame of Western writers. Its magnificent limited edition book, Taos Pueblo, was published in 1930. In the same year Adams met photographer Paul Strand, whose images had a strong impact on Adams and helped him away from the "pictorial" style he had favored in the 1920's. Adams began pursuing "straight photography", which emphasized the clarity of the lens, and the final print did not give the appearance of being manipulated in the camera or the darkroom. Adams was soon to become the mast straight photography to articulate and defend insistent. [Ed Note: Shaping in this case the sense of altering the clarity or content of the subject photographed. Techniques such as the "burn" and "dodging" and the zone system, a scientific system developed by Adams, is used specifically to "manipulate" the tone and give artists the ability to create in place of registration.]

In 1927, Adams met photographer Edward Weston. Became increasingly important to each other as friends and colleagues. Renowned Group f/64, founded in 1932, united around Weston recognized the greatness and the dynamic energy of Adams. Although loosely organized and relatively short duration, Group f/64 brought a new vision of the West Coast of the photograph directly to national attention and influence. San Francisco DeYoung Museum f/64 immediately gave a presentation and, in the same year, gave Adams his first museum exhibition of one man.

Adams stars grew rapidly in the decade of 1930, driven in part by his ability and partly by his energy and effusive activity. He made his first visit to New York in 1933, on a pilgrimage to meet the photographer Alfred Stieglitz, the artist whose work and philosophy Adams's most admired and whose life of commitment to the environment consciously emulated. Their relationship was intense and frequent correspondence, rich and deep. Although deeply a man of the West, Adams spent a considerable amount of time in New York during the years 1930 and 1940, and the Stieglitz circle played a vital role in his artistic life. In 1933 Adams Gallery at Delphi gave his first show in New York. His first series of technical articles published in Camera Arts in 1934 and his first book of broad dissemination by taking a picture, appeared in 1935. Most importantly, in 1936 Stieglitz gave Adams a one-man show at An American Place.

The recognition, however, did not alleviate the financial pressures Adams. In a letter dated August 6, 1935, Weston wrote: "I've been busy, but it broke. It seems you can not jump over the financial fence." Adams was forced to spend much of his time as a commercial photographer. Customers run the gamut including dealer Yosemite, National Park Service, Kodak, Zeiss, IBM, AT & T, a small women's college, a company of nuts, Roads and life, property, Arizona and magazines - in short, everything from portraits Coloramas catalogs. On July 2, 1938 wrote to a friend David McAlpin, "I have to do something in the relatively near future to regain the right road in the photograph I am literally inundated." Commercial "work - necessary for practical reasons, but very restricted my creative work." Though Adams became an exceptionally skilled commercial photographer, the work was intermittent, and constantly worried about paying their bills next month. Your financial situation remains precarious and a source of considerable stress late in life.

Adams' technical mastery was the stuff of legend. More than any creative photographer, either before or after, he reveled in the theory and practice of the medium. Weston and Strand frequently consulted him for technical advice. He served as principal consultant and Hasselblad Polaroid and, informally, many other photographic concerns. Adams developed the famous and very complex "zone system" of control, exposure and development, allowing photographers to creatively display an image and produce a picture that matched and expressed that view. He has produced ten volumes of technical manuals on photography, which are the most influential books ever written on the subject.

Adams power and ability to work were simply colossal. Often he worked for eighteen or more hours per day, for days and weeks. There was no vacation, no holidays, no Sundays in the life of Ansel Adams. Often, after an intense work period, would return to San Francisco or Yosemite, quickly contract the "flu", and spend several days in bed. His hyper-kinetic existence was also driven by the alcohol, for which he had a special affection, and a constant rotation of social activity, friends and colleagues. As Beaumont Newhall writes in his focus: Memoirs of a Life in Photography (1993), "Ansel was a great party man and liked to entertain had a very dominant personality and will always be the center of attention." (P. 235).

Adams described himself as a photographer - lecturer - writer. It might be more accurate to say that he was simply - indeed, compulsively - a communicator. He traveled the country endlessly in search of natural beauty revered and photographed and the public needed. Adams felt a strong commitment to the promotion of photography as an art and played a key role in creating the first museum department of photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The work at the museum to foster closer relations in the life of Adams, with Beaumont and Nancy Newhall, a historian and an administrator and a museum designer and writer, respectively. Their partnership was possibly the most powerful collaboration in twentieth-century photography. In the 1950 and 1960 Nancy Newhall and Adams created a series of books and exhibitions of historical significance, including the Sierra Club This is the Land of America (1960), which, with the classic Spring by Rachel Carson, Silent, played a key role in launching the first broad-based citizen environmental movement.

Adams was a tireless activist for the cause of wildlife and the environment. During the years he attended countless meetings and wrote thousands of letters in support of its philosophy of conservation to the editors of newspapers, Sierra Club and Wilderness Society colleagues, public officials and politicians. However, his great influence came from his photograph. His images became symbols, true icons of American wildlife. When people think about the Sierra Club's national parks or nature of the environment itself, as often as expected in terms of an Ansel Adams photos. His black and white images were not "realistic" nature documents. Instead, they sought an intensification and purification of the psychological experience of natural beauty. He created a sense of the sublime grandeur of nature that inspires the viewer with the emotional equivalent of wildlife, often more powerful than reality.

For Adams, the environmental issues of particular importance were the Yosemite National Park, national park system, and especially the preservation of nature. It focused on what he called the emotional and spiritual aspects of the parks and the wild and relentless resistance Park Service "resortism" which had led to the evolution over national parks and its domination by dealer private. But the range of issues involving Adams himself was encyclopedic. He fought for new parks and natural areas for the Wilderness Act, for Alaska's wild and his beloved Big Sur coast of central California, for mighty redwoods, sea lions and sea otters, endangered, and by air clean water. An advocate of a balanced use, resource sober, Adams also fought tirelessly against the oversized roads, billboards, and all sorts of lies of the environment and myopia. However, he always treated his opponents with respect and courtesy.

Although nature and the environment were his great passions, photography was his vocation, profession, its raison d'etre. Adams never made a creative photography specifically for environmental purposes. On April 12, 1977, wrote to his editor, Tim Hill, "I know I will be punished by a large group of people today, but I was able to assume that art related to the elusive quality of beauty and that was the purpose of art refers to the elevation of the spirit (Victorian notion horrible!) "Adams was often criticized for not including humans or evidence of" humanity "in the photographs of the landscape. The great French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson became well-known comment that "the world is falling apart and all of Adams and Weston's photograph rocks and trees" (cited by Adams, Oral History, University of California, Berkeley, p . 498). Respondents often characterize Adams as a photographer of nature idealized that no longer exists. By contrast, Adams photographed the places are, with few exceptions, just wilderness and park have been preserved for all time. There are a lot of protected areas and really true in the United States, much was saved through the efforts of Adams and his colleagues.

Viewed in the context of more traditional art history, Adams was the last figure and the definition in the romantic tradition of nineteenth-century landscape painting and photography America. Adams always said it was "influenced", but, consciously or unconsciously, was firmly in the tradition of Thomas Cole, Frederic Church, Albert Bierstadt, Carlton Watkins and Eadweard Muybridge. And he was the direct heir philosophical American transcendentalists Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and John Muir. Raised in a time and place in which he was the zeitgeist for the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt and the American "muscle" for the pervasive sense of manifest destiny and reinvented the idea that European civilization was - for the better - in the new nation and, in particular in the new West. Adams died in Monterey, California.

As John states Swarkowski in the introduction to the classic version of Adams Pictures (1985), "The love that Americans poured out for the work and person of Ansel Adams during his old age, and have continued to express with undiminished enthusiasm since death is an extraordinary phenomenon, perhaps unparalleled in our country's response to a visual artist "(p. 5). Why is this so? What generates this response surprising? Adams regarding the magnificent natural beauty of the west, was absolutely, without question in America, and his chosen instrument, the camera was a quintessential artifact of twentieth century culture. He was blessed with an unusually generous, charismatic personality and his great faith in people and human nature was amply rewarded. Adams channeled their energies in ways that serve their fellow citizens, embodied in its ongoing effort to preserve the American wilderness. Above all, the philosophy of Adams and optimism struck a chord in the national phsyche. Influence more than any other American of his era, Adams believed in the possibility and the probability of humanity live in harmony and balance with their environment. Ansel Adams is hard to imagine occurring in a European country or culture and equally difficult to conjure a more complete artist in America, whether in the art of personality.