Ansel Adams

Famous Photographer Project

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Birth Info

Ansel Easton Adams was born in San Francisco, California on February 20 in 1902. He died on April 22, 1984 (aged 82)


Ansel was born in San Francisco to his parents Charles Hitchcock Adams and Olive Bray Adams. The Adams family had come from New England, and they ran a lumber business. Later in life Ansel would resent that same industry for cutting down forests, even though that's what he grew up around. When Ansel was four he experienced the Sans Francisco earthquake, and broke his nose when he was thrown into a wall by an aftershock. Even though a doctor did advise Adams to get his nose re-set once he was older, he had a crooked nose for his whole life. For most of his childhood, he spent time in the nature around his home, developing a love for it.

HOW did he get into photography?

When Ansel first visited Yosemite National Park in 1916, he wrote that "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." This is also when his father gave him his very first camera. He took pictures at the park with enthusiasm, and continued to visit the park to take pictures yearly. He began to avidly read photography magazines and attended photography clubs. On one occasion, a friend took him to the High Sierra, where he took many pictures. He also increased his stamina and skill here, which was needed to photograph in some of nature's conditions. What really expanded his photography career was marrying into the Best family, who lived near Yosemite Park. Their studio was passed to him in 1928 and became his primary place of work until 1971.
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What is his trademark?

His trademark was taking extreme nature pictures in black and white. Although he did shoot color photos, his known trademark was his nature photos. He believed that color was distracting for a photographer, and that it took away from the full potential of an image. Without color, he focused on exposure and development time to make the best black and white photos. Thus, this is what he was known for, as he also shot his pictures to show off the beauty of nature, and to raise environmental awareness
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what made him famous?

Ansel first started becoming famous when he started exhibiting his work at museums. At his first solo exhibit at the Smithsonian Institute in 1931, he received excellent reviews by known papers such as the Washington Post. After this, Ansel cemented his publicity by publishing in known photography magazines and by doing exhibits. By the 1940's he devoted his work to the beauty of nature, with the goal of increasing environmental awareness. This allowed him to work with congress politically to secure new national parks, and this made him even more popular. After this he was a full fledged and established photographer.
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- An honorary doctorate of art from Harvard University, and a honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from Yale University

- Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

- Conservation Service Award

- Presidential Medal of Freedom

- Sierra Club John Muir Award

- Inductee to the California Hall of Fame by Arnold Schwarzenegger

- Had a mountain in the Inyo National Forest named after him

- Hasselblad Award

- His photograph, The Tetons and the Snake River was one of the 115 images put onto the Voyager spacecraft. The images selected to tell information about humans to any possible recipients of this probe

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What others have said about his work

John Szarkowski - "The love that Americans poured out for the work and person of Ansel Adams during his old age, and that they have continued to express with undiminished enthusiasm since his death, is an extraordinary phenomenon, perhaps even unparalleled in our country's response to a visual artist."

John Szarkowski - "Ansel Adams attuned himself more precisely than any photographer before him to a visual understanding of the specific quality of the light that fell on a specific place at a specific moment. For Adams the natural landscape is not a fixed and solid sculpture but an insubstantial image, as transient as the light that continually redefines it. This sensibility to the specificity of light was the motive that forced Adams to develop his legendary photographic technique."

Washington Post - "His photographs are like portraits of the giant peaks, which seem to be inhabited by mythical gods."

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What he has said about his work

"It is easy to take a photograph, but it is harder to make a masterpiece in photography than in any other art medium."

"Beauty comes first"

"Pure photography is defined as possessing no qualities of technique, composition or idea, derivative of any other art form."

"My photographs have now reached a stage when they are worthy of the world's critical examination. I have suddenly come upon a new style which I believe will place my work equal to anything of its kind."

"I had been able to realize a desired image: not the way the subject appeared in reality but how it felt to me and how it must appear in the finished print"

What I appreciate about his work

I appreciate how his photographs were about showcasing the true beauty of nature. By making them black and white, he believed that made the image better. I too believe this to be true, as sometimes color can take away from an image. I also like how his images and himself contributed to the nature conservation cause. Ansel Adams loved nature, so he spent his life trying to conserve it and I respect that.
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