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Ansel Adams

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Ansel Adams
American 20th Century
American, (1902–1982)
The renown of United States national parks such as Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Death Valley is greatly owed to the photography of Ansel Adams. Through his lens, the natural landscape becomes mystical, magical, and magnificent. His black-and-white photographs of imposing mountains and misty waterfalls feature highly contrasting tones and sharp detail, which became his signature style. Adams’ pictures of the parks he loved sparked something in the hearts of many American people, and ultimately helped to protect such places and establish new ones.

Throughout his life, Adams had a deep appreciation for nature. Born in San Francisco in 1902, the still-wild Golden Gate area was his backyard. As a teenager he spent many hours exploring the forest and coast. At fourteen years old, he convinced his parents to vacation in Yosemite, and it was there that he took some of his first photographs with a Kodak Brownie camera. In 1918, Adams joined the Sierra Club in Yosemite Valley, where he met his wife and became interested in environmentalism. It wasn’t until 1927 that Adams began to receive critical acclaim for his work, beginning with the photograph Monolith, the Face of Half Dome.

A member of the Group f/64 club (named after the smallest setting of a large-format camera diaphragm aperture), Adams worked alongside photographers such as Imogen Cunningham, Edward Weston, Willard Van Dyke, Henry Swift, John Paul Edwards, Brett Weston, Consuelo Kanaga, Alma Lavenson, Sonya Noskowiak, and Preston Holder. The group rejected pictorialism in favor of clearer images.

Ansel Adams photographs have a cinematic quality to them and are evidence of the artist's admiration and respect for the beauty of nature. He fought relentlessly for the preservation of our wilderness, endangered animals, and clean air and water. His images were not simply for the purpose of visual aesthetics, but a message to the American public that there is something precious in our forests, mountains, and rivers that must be protected.

-Vivian Monteiro SC ’23, summer 2021 Getty Curatorial Intern

William Turnage, The Ansel Adams Gallery. “Ansel Adams, Photographer – Bio.” Oxford University Press, April 5, 2021.

Alinder, Mary Street, 1996. Ansel Adams: A Biography. New York: Henry Holt & Company, Inc..

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