Ansel Adams

"You don't take a photograph, you make it."

American Photographer and Environmentalist

Born on February 20, 1902 in Western Addition, San Francisco, California

Died age 82, April 22, 1984 in Monterey California


Known for his black and white landscape photos of the American West

Most popular photo of Yosemite National Park


His photos are still widely produced in calendars, posters, and in books


Has an Honorary Doctorate from Harvard University, and a honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from Yale

Some of Ansel Adams Well Known Pieces

Education and Family Background

Ansel Easton Adams was the son of Charles Hitchcock Adams and Olive Bray Adams. The Adams family had come from New England and they ran a lumber business, an industry he would resent later in life.

When Ansel was four, he was thrown into a wall by an aftershock of the San Francisco earthquake, and broke his nose. The doctors told him to get his nose reset once he was older but he chose to live with a crooked nose.

His Trademark

Ansel Adams' trademark was taking extreme nature pictures in black and white. He believed that color was distracting for a photographer and it took away from the images full potential. He focused on exposure and development time to make the best black and white photos. He also shot photos to raise environmental awareness.

What made him famous?

He was most famous for his landscape photos used in calendars and books. These black and white photos and some in color are still used to this day. Adams along with a colleague developed the Zone System as a way to determine proper exposure and adjust the contrast of the final print. Adams also founded the photography group known as Group f/64.

What did he have to say about his work?

"Photography, as a powerful medium of expression and communications, offers an infinite variety of perception, interpretation and execution"


"Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer and often the supreme disappointment."


"It is my intention to present through the medium of photography-intuitive observations of the natural world which may have meaning to the spectators."


"A good photograph is knowing where to stand."


"In wisdom gathered over time I have found that every experience is a form of exploration."

What did others have to say about his work?

"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


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

-Washington Post


"I always enjoy seeing one of his books or an exhibit not just for these icons but to absorb the range of his vision-still-still life imagery, inclusive portraits, details of nature as well as grand landscapes. As I imagine it is for many of us, his images are burned into my memory."

-William Neill

Why I appreciate his work

I appreciate Ansel Adams work because of the time and thought that was put in to each and every one of his photos. It is evident that he put careful consideration into every one of his pieces. I think that this truly makes him successful because he stops and focuses on what some people don't take the time to realize is even out there.