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Ansel Easton Adams

 (1902 - 1984)
Ansel Easton Adams was active/lived in California.  Ansel Adams is known for western landscape photography.

Ansel Easton Adams

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Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, I

Ansel Adams, photographer and environmentalist, was born in San Francisco, California, the son of Charles Hitchcock Adams, a businessman, and Olive Bray.  An only child, Adams was born when his mother was nearly forty.  He was raised in an environment that was deeply Victorian, and Adams was a solitary child; at the age of twelve, he taught himself to play the piano and read music.  Although he ultimately gave up music for photography, the piano brought substance, discipline, and structure to his frustrating and erratic youth.  Moreover, the careful training and exacting craft required of a musician profoundly informed his visual artistry, as well as his influential writings and teachings on photography.

Always a lover of nature, Adams life was, in his words, "colored and modulated by the great earth gesture" of the Yosemite Sierra; he spent substantial time there every year from 1916 until his death.  There, he began using the Kodak No. 1 Box Brownie his parents had given him, joined the Sierra Club, and met his wife, Virginia Best; they were married in 1928.  The couple had two children.

The 1920's and 30's were busy years for Adams.  He made his first fully visualized photograph, Monolith, the Face of Half Dome, and gained his first patron in the person of Albert M. Bender, explored the "pictorial" style, and settled on "straight photography."  Although his work gained recognition, it did not alleviate Adams's financial pressures, compelling him to spend much of his time as a commercial photographer.  Still, Adams's technical mastery was the stuff of legend. More than any creative photographer, before or since, he reveled in the theory and practice of the medium, even creating the famous and highly complex "zone system" of controlling and relating exposure and development.

Adams felt an intense commitment to promoting photography as a fine art, as well as being an unremitting activist for the cause of wilderness and the environment.  His images became the symbols, the veritable icons, of wild America.  Seen in a more traditional art history context, Adams was the last and defining figure in the romantic tradition of nineteenth-century American landscape painting and photography.

Adams's vast archive of papers, memorabilia, correspondence, negatives, and many "fine" photographic prints, as well as numerous "work" or proof prints, are in the John P. Schaefer Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona, Tucson.  A portion of his papers relating to the Sierra Club are in the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley. Adams died in Monterey, California in 1984.

Reference: William A. Turnage, American National Biography, Oxford University Press

Biography from
Biography Highlights:

1902 Ansel Easton Adams born on February 20, at 114 Maple Street, San Francisco, of Olive and Charles
1916 Takes pictures with his very first camera on a family trip to Yosemite National Park. He would return to Yosemite every year for the rest of his life.
1917 Works at a Photo-finishing business.
1922 Publishes first illustrated article in Sierra Club Bulletin.
1927 Takes the photo Monolith, The Face of Half Dome.
1928 Marries Virginia Best in Yosemite.
1930 Becomes completely dedicated to photography after meeting photographer Paul Strand.
1932 Co-founder of photography group, "f/64".
1933 Opens his own gallery in San Francisco.
1937 His darkroom in Yosemite burns - and destroys 20 percent of his negatives.
1940 Helps found Department of Photography, New York's Museum of Modern Art.
1941 Develops Zone System of photography - a technique of exposure and development control.
1946 Receives Guggenheim Fellowship to photograph national parks.
1948 Guggenheim fellowship renewed.
1949 Becomes consultant for Polaroid Corporation.
1953 Does Life magazine photo essay on the Mormons in Utah.
1958 Receives third Guggenheim fellowship.
1965 Named to President Johnson's environmental task force.
1975 Helps found Center for Creative Photography at University of Arizona. His archives are established there.
1980 Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Carter.
1984 Dies on April 22.

1931 Has an exhibition of 60 prints at the Smithsonian Institution.

1979 Yosemite and the Range of Light.
1978 Polaroid Land Photography and Ansel Adams: 50 Years of Portraits.
1976 Photographs of the Southwest.
1970 The Tetons and the Yellowstone.
1963 Releases Portfolio 4
1962 Death Valley and the Creek Called Furnace and These We Inherit: The Parklands of America.
1960 This is the American Earth and releases Portfolio 3
1959 Yosemite Valley
1958 The Islands of Hawaii
1956 Basic Photo Series 5
1954 Death Valley, Mission San Xavier del Bac and The Pageant of History in Northern California.
1952 Basic Photo Series 4.
1950 Basic Photo Series 3 and My Camera in Yosemite Valley. Issues Portfolio 2.
1948 Photo Series I: Camera and Lens and 2: The Negative and Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada, and issues Portfolio I.
1946 Illustrated Guide to Yosemite Valley
1941 Michael and Anne in Yosemite Valley
1938 Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail.
1935 Making a Photograph: An Introduction to Photography.
1930 Taos Pueblo
1927 Publishes first portfolio, Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras.

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About  Ansel Easton Adams

Born:  1902 - San Francisco, California
Died:   1984 - Carmel, California
Known for:  western landscape photography